According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have come to an agreement with free-agent catcher Brian McCann, pending a physical, signing him to a five-year, $85 million deal (with a vesting option for a sixth year).
On the field, there’s no doubt this helps the Yankees significantly. Last year their production at catcher was miserable — Chris Stewart played 109 games and hit .211/.293/.272, for a paltry OPS+ of 57, not that you need advanced stats to tell you how bad that line was; Austin Romine, who played in 60 games, was even worse. McCann, who’ll turn 30 in February, has never been anywhere near that bad. Other than an off-year in 2012, he has generally been solidly above-average, if not always spectacular, and he has handled the Braves pitching staff well. He has made the All-Star Game roster in seven of his eight full seasons. Last year he hit .256/.336/.461 with 20 home runs, power the Yankees could certainly use.
Five years and $85 million might be an overpay for a solid if not spectacular catcher, but then McCann is easily the best-hitting backstop available on the free-agent market, the team won’t have to endure his late 30s, and the Yankees have no shortage of money — unless, of course, they decide to impose their own spending limit. There’s the possible rub.
The Yankees have been saying for the last several years that they intended to keep their payroll below $189 million by 2014 — the magic number for luxury tax purposes. In theory, that should be plenty of money with which to build a winning team; in practice, without enough time to plan for it and with a number of huge, unwieldy, albatross contracts already on the books, it could hamper the team considerably.
The biggest of those albatross contracts is, of course Alex Rodriguez, and the Yankees won’t know for a while yet how long he’ll be suspended for his involvement in the Biogenesis case. If he misses the whole season, and they don’t have to pay his 2014 salary, then coming under that $189 million is still workable. If Rodriguez somehow does play, though, will they continue to sign free agents to meet their many remaining needs, in a market where even mediocre pitchers are commanding at least $10 million a year? Or will they hold back in the name of luxury tax savings?
After jawing with several opponents who he deemed to be showing up his teammates — most memorably when he blocked home plate and prevented Carlos Gomez from scoring, prompting a brawl — McCann got a reputation as the Baseball Cop:
But as enjoyable a meme as that was (at least for non-Braves fans), the Fun Police storyline will likely fade quickly. He seems to have gotten along very well with his own teammates, and if he hits well, most New York fans won’t be too concerned about a couple of shoving matches incited before he joined the team.
Now, if his contract prevents the team from signing, say, a good pitcher, that won’t be so easy to dismiss — but that’s not up to McCann. Whether or not this contract is ultimately good for the Yankees depends as much on the team’s owners, their budget and the outcome of Alex Rodriguez’s arbitration hearing as it does on the Yankees’ new catcher.