A Great Catch

The Yankees have reportedly snapped up Brian McCann, the best-hitting catcher on the market. (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The Yankees have reportedly snapped up Brian McCann, the best-hitting catcher on the market. (USA TODAY Sports Images)

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.

33 thoughts on “A Great Catch

  1. I am a huge Yankee fan and this is a big deal. The Yankees have 2 or 3 young catcher in Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy, and Gary Sanchez. If McCann is in the Bronx for the next 5 years, what do they do with those young Catcher.

    • Keep the young catchers in the system as long as they can. Remember, they still need sufficient backup at the catching position. Is it Cervelli, is it Stuart is it Romine, Sanchez or Murphy……These guys (except for Cervelli who was hurt) did a very decent job last year, to cover down during a difficult season…… Must try and determine who the best ones are……

      • The only Yankee catching prospect that can possibly be an above average major league catcher is Sanchez. He is 21 years old and will be 26 when McCann’s contract is finishing up. Catchers mature later than any other position players. Sanchez appears to be two years away. I predict his call up sometime after the all-star break of 2015. McCann handles the pitching staff and frames the ball better than most. McCann will be a great mentor for Sanchez as McCann can then fill in at DH and possibly first base duties. I think it’s a win-win situation.

    • These are good points and worth raising, but Romine looked awful last season, and it’s not clear that Sanchez will stick at catcher… none of the Yankees’ young catchers are a sure thing (see also Jesus Montero), especially not compared to McCann. True, if things do go extremely well for one or more of their minor league backstops, they may end up kicking themselves. But in that case they can always make a trade.

      • Emma, I disagree that Romine was “awful last season. Maybe he was a bit overmatched early in the season, but he finished strongly. Look at hi splits and you’ll see proof of that. To dismiss a backup based on a small sample size is a bit shortsighted.

  2. Pitching, pitching, pitching and more pitching… You lose the greatest closer of our time and what does the new management do… Go and sign a catcher! God Bless Joe Girardi having to work for the numb nuts running the organization!

    • You can only win so many 1-0, or 2-1 games. Look at the offense generated from cathers last year. With that out of the way now they can trade one of their young catchers in a pkg. and get some more pitching.

    • Uncle Tony, if you didn’t go off half-cocked with your name-calling, you might have had time to notice that the Yanks are also pursuing Joe Nathan (and several other players), according to The Times. Why would anyone in their right mind think that they can only do one thing at a time, and have forgotten about the pitching staff?

    • They lost the greatest closer of all-time back in 2012 as well and plugged the spot with another decent (but not legendary) closer and still got tremendous production out of the position. They’ll be fine at closer, whether it’s with Robinson or someone else. I agree they need at least one or two starters, but let’s face it, McCann is a significant upgrade at a position where they got NOTHING last year. So while you’re looking for numb nuts, why don’t you start by looking in the mirror. This is a very good move for the Yankees any way you slice it.

    • Umm, Unc? Which free-agent pitcher would you like to sign? Everybody out there is average and overpriced. You can’t gripe about a need when there is nothing available in the market to fill that need.

    • You’re welcome, Michael…not necessarily a huge mistake on the part of the Yanks…he didn’t have a good year in 2012, and there is no guarantee he would have played as well for the Yankees as he did for the Bucs in 2013…the change of scenery may have helped him…

      • I agree it was a mistake not keeping Martin, but I am not so sure he didn’t want to leave. He was and is a solid catcher, and even at 2012 levels, he was much better than what NYY put at the backstop in ’13. Brian will be a great signing for us, now if we pick up Jacoby and resign Cano and this Japanese kid, we will be straight. There isn’t a must have pitcher on the market, so maybe we try a bit harder to keep Kuroda and deal with what we have. It would not be terrible to have a staff of CC, Nova, Kuroda, Tenaka I think is his name and Phelps/Pineda and whomever they can plug in from the farm. It seems that we never know what the farm can produce until we are in a bind, that is how we had Nova, the 1st have of Hughes and Kennedy, Pettitte and so on. If they can do all the above, they will be very strong next year. Don’t forget they will have Jeter and Tex for a full year, knock on wood.

  3. Braves screwed up……McCann could have been a brave forever….we have no solid catcher now….gattis is not a very good defensive catcher

  4. One more long term dumb money contract.
    You know it will not be long . And 95% of the public will not go to the games. It will cost to much to get in.
    To keep paying the dumb money contracts..

  5. Love it, did not realize he was only 30. We get a catcher that can hit and can develop farm system which is where a lot of our money goes btw. Yankee haters think its all free agents (also Ted Turner started the over bidding with Andy Messersmith who was damaged goods, GS was just smarter with his Money. Catfish and Reggie!) but as a lifelong (pre “Boss” days) I have watched us build teams that are based on guys we sign and develop (Cano, Munson, Williams, Jeter, Mo, Petit, ect…). We used many Free agent deals attract some superstars but mostly paid top dollar for solid veterans without whom we couldn’t win championships (Paul O’Neil, Scott Brocheus (sp?) Luis Sojo, Mike Stanton, Aaron Boone). The “Boss” got “Al Davis ” disease late in life and signed a bunch of big salary washed up pitchers (Davis liked Super Bowl MVPs and Heisman Trophy winners that were old or one and done). McCann is old school when it comes to respecting the game and his team which is refreshing in our selfish society. He reminds me in many ways of Thurman Munson (not only in his build) but his presence, hitting ability, defensive skills and his approach to catching, important and under rated fact of life pitchers don’t need to love the catcher but need to trust and respect him. I think you keep Chris Stuart, you lose nothing on defense and McCann can get a break and DH. Cervelli I like very much but he can’t stay healthy, honestly don’t know anything about the young guys except that they are no ready.If you actually read this far Thank you. Go Yanks

  6. Great signing by the Yankees! I don’t understand people who question the money spent. I had 2 questions for the nay sayers:
    Have you been following the money being spent during this off season?
    It’s the NY Yankees money – who knows how much they have to spend?

    I see nothing wrong with getting the best talent available. So hooray for the Yanks!!

  7. The 2014 season will be very different. The Yanks’ best players were sidelined. Bring back Tex, Jeter, Granderson, Arod, Soriano, etc. and they will be playing first place baseball all season.

  8. As a Braves fan, I know McCann grew up outside Atlanta and was a legendary high school bballer. However, he was inconsistent. Granted, he would get the big hit occasionally (e.g. A grand slam here, a walk-off single in the All Star game there). Too often he just didn’t come through in the clutch— in comparison to the hits Chipper would produce, even when aging but still healthy, in the years just.before he retired. McCann never could stop base stealing– at least in an intimidating way that fans could brag about. His arm was feeble in comparison to other star catchers. I think this was a good move for the Braves, particularly if Gattis continues with his strong drive to win, and he doesn’t succumb to “big contractitis.”

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  10. The problem with the McCann signing is that everyone’s judging it in a vacuum. You’re not going to be able to do that with this signing, with any other individual move the Yankees may make, or with any other single move any other team may make this offseason. We’ve already seen two pretty big trades this offseason, some significant FA signings, and we’re just barely getting started.

    Without knowing what’s going to happen with A-Roid, without knowing the other moves the Yanks are going to make, it’s almost impossible to form a legitimate opinion on the McCann signing. Yes, it upgrades the catcher position, but does it leave the Yanks hamstrung as far as resigning Cano and/or upgrading other positions of need? Do they have an extra $25 million to play with? If they don’t, will the Steinbrenners and Cashman relent and open up the pocketbook? My answers are probably not, probably, and probably respectively, but I don’t think we can say that for sure this year.

  11. Soooooooooooooo glad the Yankees signed this guy. A Roid-Head and clubhouse cancer. The soap opera in 2014………..will……………be……………….AWESOME! :)

  12. McCann may be the best free agent catcher available but don’t expect too much production of him. – his best days are certainly behind him and the Yankees are paying for past performance. He OPS’d .698 in 2012 and after a nice start in 2013 (after coming back from injury), he was mediocre in the second half (.220/.296/.384 line). He’s also below-average defensively and those skills will only deteriorate with age.

    Yankees would have been better off re-signing Russell Martin after the 2012 season – same age as McCann at that time. He couldn’t hit for average but he could get on base, had good pop, better defense, and handled the pitching staff better. For whatever it’s worth, Martin also has the “clubhouse intangibles” that McCann is known for.

    He signed with the Pirates for 2 years, $17M! Stupid mistake by Cashman – who basically told Martin the Yankees didn’t have “enough” money to sign him. Now he’s trying to make up for it by overpaying McCann.

    • Not really sure why you believe McCann’s bad defensively. He ranks near the top of the league each year in runs saved from pitch framing. The Yankees are all about that.

  13. Why are these numbers considered so great? Russell Martin for the Yankees

    In 133 games, he hit .211 with 21 HR and 53 RBI. Martin started all 9 games of the Yankees postseason, going 5-31 with 1 HR.

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  15. A 1945 Chappells, SC product, I have been a Yankee fan since my hearing developed. A healthy Jeter and McCann is like adding two top of the line players to the roster. Sure can use’em.