Brian McCann Rumors

Quick Hits: Rangers, Price, Rodon, Cubs

Nolan Ryan might be missing out on a really fun offseason.  Rival talent evaluators believe that the Rangers are going to be very aggressive this winter and pursue the likes of David Price, Masahiro Tanaka, and Brian McCann, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via Twitter).  Texas is eager to right the ship after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009.  Here's more from around baseball..

  • The 2014 draft class has potential to be the best class since 2011, write John Manuel and Clint Longenecker of Baseball America.  Left-hander Carlos Rodon stands out as the top talent in the group while power pitcher Jeff Hoffman would be the No. 2 pick if the draft was today.
  • Top international prospects Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres are pretty far along in their development considering that they're just 16, but they'll be working to adjust to the U.S. culturally, writes MLB.com's Carrie Muskat.  "They're not raw in their physical abilities, it's just being raw to the United States, how things are run," said Cubs Minor League hitting coordinator Anthony Iapoce. "As far as the way they play the game, they're pretty advanced for 16 years old. They're not raw as far as their tools. Their tools are in place."
  • Pirates first baseman Justin Morneau will look to sign with a winner this offseason, writes Sid Hartman of the Star-Tribune.  Because of that, a return to the Twins seems highly unlikely, unless he finds an extremely weak market for his services.

East Notes: Beltran, Yankees, McCann, Thornton

Yesterday we learned that the Yankees and Carlos Beltran are expected to have mutual interest in a union this offseason.  Today, David Lennon of Newsday weighed the pros and cons of that for the Bombers and noted that acting quickly – as the Tigers did with Torii Hunter – could help their efforts.  Here's a look at the latest from the AL and NL East..

  • Braves catcher Brian McCann could receive $100MM in free agency, a GM tells Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York. Marchand also notes that the Yankees feel that if Alex Rodriguez's PED suspension holds (meaning the Yankees would not have to pay his $25MM 2014 salary), they might be able to sign McCann in addition to Robinson Cano. McCann ranks fourth in Tim Dierkes' latest 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, and MLBTR predicts that McCann will receive a five-year, $80MM deal.
  • Red Sox reliever Matt Thornton won't retire after the season, CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes reports. Boston has a $6MM option with a $1MM buyout on Thornton's services for 2014, but it looks unlikely they'll pick it up, given that they left him off their ALCS roster. "I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near being done in my career,” says Thornton. "I feel like I have plenty left in the tank physically." The Red Sox acquired Thornton from the White Sox for minor-leaguer Brandon Jacobs in mid-July, but he missed time down the stretch with a strained oblique and did not pitch much in September.
  • Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues looks at the Yankees' upcoming 40-man roster crunch.  At this moment, the Yankees have 47 players on their 40-man roster.

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.


AL West Notes: Rangers, McCann, Cruz, Angels, Astros

The Rangers' season came to an end last night after a 5-2 loss to the Rays in Game 163, shifting the team's focus to the upcoming offseason. General manager Jon Daniels told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports last night that there's "no question" Ron Washington will be the manager of next season's team (Twitter link). Here's more on the Rangers and the rest of the AL West…

  • Danny Knobler of CBS Sports writes that the Rangers will likely target Brian McCann in free agency this offseason, as they've attempted to acquire him via trade multiple times and have had scouts following him closely.  That fits with Tim Dierkes' thoughts from McCann's recent free agent profile here at MLBTR.
  • Nelson Cruz wants to be back with the Rangers in 2014, he told reporters, including Michael Florek of the Dallas Morning News. Cruz called the ovation he received in his first at-bat last night "special" and said he feels he's dealt with his mistakes and is ready to move on.
  • Both A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto would like to return to the Rangers, writes Todd Wills of ESPNDallas.com. However, the team's potential pursuit of McCann could take precedence. Durrett also notes that Washington would love to have Joe Nathan back to close games for him in 2014. Nathan can void his option and is likely to seek a multiyear deal. Wills also notes that Washington would welcome Cruz back to the team as well. "Who wouldn't want Nelson Cruz?" asked Washington.
  • Some within the Angels camp expect both manager Mike Scioscia and GM Jerry Dipoto to return in 2014, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. There have been rumors that one of the two is headed out the door.
  • With a young core now taking shape, Astros owner Jim Crane tells MLB.com's Brian McTaggart that the payroll will increase in 2014 and the team will look to add some free agents into the mix. Crane specifically mentions a power bat, help for the back of the rotation and bullpen arms as areas of need.


Free Agent Profile: Brian McCann

If you're looking for a power-hitting catcher, there's no better choice than Brian McCann.  McCann has played eight full seasons in the Majors, ranking worse than third in home runs at the position only one time.  He's averaged 21 bombs per year, and he has 20 this year even though his season didn't begin until May.

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Strengths/Pros

McCann is a bona fide middle of the order bat, at a position for which a .246/.311/.390 line qualifies as average.  His career batting line is .277/.350/.474, which is not far from what he's accomplished in 2013.  Along with the big-time power, McCann can also draw a walk, with a career rate of 9.5%.

How many free agents will hit the market coming off a 20 home run campaign?  Assuming club options are picked up on Coco Crisp and Adam Lind, just 11 players including McCann will manage the feat.  Of those 11, only McCann and Robinson Cano play an up-the-middle position, if we don't consider Shin-Soo Choo a center fielder.  Like Cano, McCann provides offense at a position not known for it.

McCann won't turn 30 until February, so he's the youngest prominent free agent bat. 

Defensively, FanGraphs has numbers calculated by The Fielding Bible, as well as Hardball Times contributor Bojan Koprivica, suggesting McCann is about league average at throwing out potential base stealers and preventing them from trying, and he is above average at blocking pitches.  McCann appears to add significant value by virtue of his pitch framing ability.  In May, Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus wrote, "McCann’s framing skill has saved the Braves almost 125 runs over the past five seasons."  McCann's ability to handle a pitching staff is hard to quantify, but reports are positive.

Weaknesses/Cons

The big concern heading into this season was McCann's shoulder.  He played through shoulder pain in 2012, receiving cortisone shots in August and September.  McCann had surgery in October to repair a torn labrum, and the Braves had enough faith to pick up his $12MM option for 2013 a few days later.  He made his season debut on May 6th and would hit six home runs that month.  McCann's continued health and strong play seems to have quieted concerns about the shoulder, as he garnered his seventh All-Star nod this year.

A left-handed hitter, McCann hasn't done much against southpaws recently.  Since 2012, he's batting .234/.271/.379 against lefties.

McCann has caught over 8,800 regular season innings in his career, and caution is required when throwing big money at a catcher in his 30s.  Former Marlins catcher Charles Johnson rates high on McCann's list of Baseball Reference comparables, and Johnson also caught over 7,000 innings before age 30.  Once he reached 30, Johnson had only 300 games left in the Majors.  Johnson did not have the luxury of the designated hitter, as McCann might, but the offensive bar to be an above average DH or first baseman is higher than at catcher.  McCann's market won't be limited to American League teams, but he'll be a much easier sell if DH is an option in the latter part of the contract.

McCann is likely to receive and turn down a qualifying offer, in which case he will come with the added cost of a first or second round draft pick.

Personal

Brian married his high school sweetheart Ashley, and they reside in Suwanee, Georgia with their son and new baby girl.  Brian is known as a family man.  The family supports the Rally Foundation, which aims to find better treatments of childhood cancer.  Brian's older brother Brad reached Double-A in the Marlins organization, and their father, Howard, coached baseball at Marshall University.  In the clubhouse, Brian is a team leader who is beloved by teammates and fans.  

Market

There is sentiment among baseball executives and agents that McCann will be best served going to the American League, allowing him to spend an increasing number of games at designated hitter as the contract progresses.  On the other hand, free agent signings are about short-term gain, and McCann is a capable backstop at present.  For NL teams, there's always the option of McCann learning first base if catching becomes untenable.  I imagine an NL team would seek a shorter term at a higher average annual value.

The Rangers have tried to acquire McCann via trade in the past, and they're the early speculative favorite.  The Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, Phillies, and Dodgers also seem like viable options.

What are the odds McCann signs a new deal with his hometown Braves, the only organization he's ever known?  If the slugger tells agent B.B. Abbott to get him the best possible contract, I think he's likely to move on.

In terms of other starting catchers on the free agent market, there's Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski, Carlos Ruiz, and maybe Dioner Navarro.  That's actually a better selection than in recent years.  As far as power bats in general, there's Cano, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, Marlon Byrd, Raul Ibanez, Hunter Pence, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, Kendrys Morales, and Choo.

Expected Contract

It's difficult to determine whether McCann will get a fifth guaranteed year.  In recent offseasons, position players B.J. Upton, Josh Hamilton, Jose Reyes, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre, Jayson Werth, and Carl Crawford managed the feat.  None of those players are catchers, nor is McCann a superstar like some of them were.  A team could plan to move him off catcher at the tail end of the deal, but the wear of nearly 9,000 innings behind the dish has already been exacted on McCann's body, and raises durability questions for the future. 

The Werth contract aside, I think a fair average annual value for a very good player who is not a superstar is around $16-17MM.  Ultimately I expect McCann to sign a five-year, $80MM deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL East Notes: Bethancourt, Tejada, Zimmerman

The Braves will promote top prospect Christian Bethancourt today, according to Tom Hart of FOX Sports in Atlanta (Twitter link). The 22-year-old catcher hit .277/.305/.436 at Double-A Mississippi this season. While those numbers don't look tremendously impressive, Bethancourt turned it on after a slow start, batting .300/.339/.521 with 11 homers from June 13 on. He currently ranks as the Braves' No. 3 prospect and the fifth-best catching prospect in baseball in the eyes of MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Here's more on Bethancourt and the rest of the NL East…

  • MLB.com's Mark Bowman tweets that Bethancourt's promotion will allow him to get acquainted with the Majors, which is a good thing, as it's likely that he or Evan Gattis will be the Braves' starting catcher in 2014. In doing so, Bowman implies that Brian McCann is likely to sign elsewhere as a free agent. That thought has been echoed by others in recent weeks, including David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • The Mets will stall Ruben Tejada's promotion back to the Majors, writes Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, and in doing so, they will delay his free agency until after the 2017 season instead of the 2016 season. Tejada hasn't exactly torn the cover off the ball of late, as he's batted just .275/.324/.364 from July through Sept. 2 at Triple-A Las Vegas — one of the most hitter-friendly environments in all of professional baseball.
  • Ryan Zimmerman has regained confidence in his throwing and believes he can continue to play third base for the Nationals, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Zimmerman concedes that he doubted his future at the hot corner earlier in the season. He tells Kilgore that his shoulder injuries in 2012 wore his right arm down to the point where he couldn't lift it above his head, causing him to develop bad throwing habits. He had surgery to repair the shoulder last October, but breaking those poor habits and rebuilding the strength in his arm has been a slow process, Zimmerman says. Ultimately, the decision on when to move to first won't be Zimmerman's, Kilgore writes. The team could even move Adam LaRoche this winter and make the switch in 2014.

Quick Hits: McCann, Dotel, Tanaka, Astros

The Pirates' acquisition of Justin Morneau is rated by Scott Miller of CBSSports.com as the August waiver trade with the highest "Cody Ross potential."  Ross, of course, was an unheralded pickup in August 2010 who ended up paying huge dividends in the Giants' World Series victory that season.  Here are some more items from around the majors…

  • Though Evan Gattis' storybook rookie season has been slowed by injuries and slumps, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution still doesn't think the Braves will push to re-sign Brian McCann this winter.  Since the Braves won't be able to transition McCann from catcher to DH as he ages, O'Brien figures that an AL team who can offer this luxury will outbid Atlanta for McCann's services.  MLBTR's Tim Dierkes ranked McCann third the last edition of his 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, though McCann's bat has cooled off (.674 OPS in 89 PA) in August.
  • There is a "99.9%" chance that Octavio Dotel will be shut down for the season, Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters, including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press.  Dotel hasn't pitched since April 19 due to an elbow injury and he has experienced forearm tightness during his minor league rehab assignment.  Since Dotel turns 40 in November, it has been speculated that this injury could mark the end of Dotel's career, though Leyland said he wasn't aware of the veteran reliever's future plans.
  • The Yankees have "heavily scouted" Masahiro Tanaka, sending scouts to see many of Tanaka's starts for Rakuten, Mark Hale and George A. King III of the New York Post report.  Assistant GM Billy Eppler and special assignment scout Don Wakamatsu were in Japan last week for one of Tanaka's outings.  The Yankees and Rangers could be the favorites to make the highest posting bid for Tanaka should Rakuten make him available this offseason, though the Giants, Red Sox, Athletics and Twins are also known to be interested in the right-hander.
  • Fangraphs' Wendy Thurm explores when the Astros will start to raise their payroll by comparing the club's major payroll cuts to other teams who have slashed salaries in recent years.
  • With Alex Rodriguez facing a possible season-long suspension in 2014 and Mark Reynolds and Kevin Youkilis both question marks, ESPN's Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required) looks at some long-, medium- and short-term third base answers that the Yankees could acquire from another team.
  • The Twins should move Joe Mauer to first base next season and rely on either rookie Josmil Pinto to play catcher or sign A.J. Pierzynski, Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune opines.  Pierzynski, who spent his first six seasons in Minnesota, would also provide the Twins with some needed grit and leadership, Souhan adds.  Pierzynski will hit the free agent market again this winter and one would think he'd prefer to play for a contender at this late stage in his career.  He's hitting .283/.309/.452 with 16 homers in 424 PA with the Rangers this season so he'll certainly have a market for his services.

Phillies Will Prioritize Catching This Offseason

The Phillies locked up one 35-year-old last week when they signed Chase Utley to a two-year extension with three vesting options, but they appear set to let Carlos Ruiz test the open market, writes Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News.

Ruiz is hitting .257/.307/.322 with a pair of homers in 203 plate appearances this season. His playing time has been limited by a 25-game suspension he served after testing positive for amphetamines and a hamstring injury that landed him on the disabled list for a month. His 2013 numbers are clearly a far cry from the .325/.394/.540 batting line and 16 homers he posted in 2012.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Lawrence that catching will be one of his top priorities this offseason, if not his No. 1 priority:

"Catching is going to a very big priority for us – maybe the biggest. There are some players out there. But there's not a lot of catching in the industry. It's going to be a tough decision for us. We might have to look to try to acquire it via trade. Or we could be looking right here at Chooch [Ruiz]."

Ruiz voiced his desire to stay in Philadelphia to Lawrence, calling it his home. He is earning $5MM in 2013 after the club exercised an option at the end of his three-year, $8.85MM extension from the 2010-11 offseason.

As Lawrence notes, Brian McCann will headline this year's crop of free agent catchers. While he would represent a significant upgrade behind the dish, Lawrence writes that McCann is a tough fit in Philadelphia because he is a left-handed bat. The Phillies will routinely deploy Utley,  Domonic BrownRyan Howard, Ben Revere and Cody Asche in 2014, and adding McCann to that mix would give the Phils six lefties in their everyday lineup.

Injuries to top Phillies prospect Tommy Joseph have increased the need for the team to acquire catching, as Joseph won't be ready for the Majors next spring. He hit just .179/.229/.285 and battled persistent concussion-like symptoms. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out last week, Joseph has had three concussions in his career and may ultimately be forced to change positions.


Quick Hits: Lee, A’s, Rays, Yankees

In reality, the Red Sox were a "non factor" for Cliff Lee before they landed Jake Peavy, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Will he get moved today to another club?  Baseball people are highly doubtful anyone would meet the supposed Phillies' asking price of three top prospects for a pitcher who has $70MM left on his deal through 2015.  "I don't know of a team in baseball that would [do] that. Taking on that much money and giving up three legit prospects seems like a stretch for anyone," one exec said.  Here's more from around baseball as we approach the 3pm central deadline..

  • The A's are still pursuing bullpen depth, tweets Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and ESPN.
  • Teams that have spoken with the Phillies say they're not upbeat about making any deals today, tweets ESPN.com's Jayson Stark.  Michael Young is still in play, but there's no clear destination for the third baseman.
  • The Cardinals are leaning towards standing pat at the deadline unless there is a last minute drastic change, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter).
  • Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times writes that the Rays have been looking into at least one more potential deal, presumably to add a bat.  Tampa Bay made a splash earlier this week when they landed Jesse Crain in a swap with the White Sox.
  • The Yankees were mainly working on smaller acquisitions like Alberto Callaspo this week and didn't have any interest in Alex Rios once they landed Alfonso Sorianotweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  Callaspo wound up going from the Halos to the A's.
  • The Marlins don't expect to do much today and plan to keep Chad Qualls, Justin Ruggiano, and other trade chips if they can't get good value in return, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Meanwhile, the Marlins are gauging interest in Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com
  • The Royals' search for a second baseman continues, but they don't appear to be close on anything at the moment, writes Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.  “Anything’s possible,” one club official said. “We looking at a lot of things, but I doubt anything get done unless things change in the last few hours.
  • The Indians got the left-handed reliever they needed yesterday in Marc Rzepczynski and would still be open to a rotation upgrade, but they don't like the price so far, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).  For now, the Tribe is prepared to stand pat.
  • There are a lot of present and veteran Braves who think the club is making a serious mistake by allowing Brian McCann hit the open market at the end of the season, writes Peter Gammons at GammonsDaily.com. "Only the people around the team understand what he means to that pitching staff. He’s a star player in the team concept,” said David Ross of McCann, who also leads the team with a .884 OPS.
  • Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com spoke with Nationals players to get their take on the trade deadline.  Scott Hairston and Adam LaRoche have both been involved in multiple deadline deals.

Rangers Inquired On Brian McCann

In their extensive search for a bat, the Rangers recently inquired with the Braves on catcher Brian McCann, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  The Braves had no interest in trading their starting catcher, who ranks fourth on MLBTR's 2014 free agent power rankings.

Rookie Evan Gattis filled in admirably for McCann while he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, and Gerald Laird has been surprisingly useful with the bat in limited duty.  The club also has Christian Bethancourt in Double-A.


NL East Links: Howard, Rizzo, Hairston, McCann

Ryan Howard will be out of action for six-to-eight weeks following surgery to repain a torn medial meniscus in his left knee.  While Howard wasn't going to be a trade candidate at the deadline (no team would touch that contract), it's possible his absence might convince the Phillies to throw in the towel on the 2013 season and become full-fledged sellers this month.  Here's the latest from around the NL East…

  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo discussed his team's acquisition of Scott Hairston with reporters (including MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko) today.  Hairston was the Nats' top target for right-handed bench help and the club had been negotiating with the Cubs for a couple of weeks, with an eye towards getting the deal finalized before the Nationals' current series with the Phillies.  Rizzo liked that Hairston was contracted through 2014 so he can be an asset to Washington next season as well.
  • Rizzo also noted that the Nats could make another move before the trade deadline but it won't be anything major.  "You never stop trying to improve your club, but with that said, we feel like we like the club that we have and we're certainly playing better and we'll see where it takes us from here," Rizzo said. "I don't see any type of big splashy moves that are remaining."
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs likes the Hairston trade, noting that it's the kind of shrewd low-cost move that can pay dividends if Washington ends up in the postseason.
  • Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post opines that a trade package of Danny Espinosa, Ross Detwiler, Tyler Moore and Lucas Giolito might be enough for the Nationals to obtain David Price from the Rays.  While that's not a bad offer, I think the Rays could score a lot more elite talent if they started shopping their ace lefty.
  • Braves catcher Brian McCann finally seems to be fully healthy and has been red-hot over the last two weeks, leading David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to predict that if McCann keeps it up, he'll score a free agent contact close to Yadier Molina's five-year, $75MM deal with the Cardinals.  O'Brien notes that this deal will come from an AL team that will eventually transition McCann to a DH role, which is why I'd argue that McCann's eventual contract will fall at least $10-$15MM short of Molina's deal.  McCann's bat doesn't carry a $15MM average annual value if it's not coming from the catcher position, plus Molina brought elite defense and a less-checkered injury history into his new contract.
  • Zack Wheeler is set to face the Giants on Wednesday, almost two years after he was dealt from San Francisco to the Mets in exchange for Carlos BeltranESPN New York's Adam Rubin talks to Wheeler and Giants manager Bruce Bochy about the trade, and Bochy has no regrets since his club was gunning for another World Series title.
  • The Rangers would love to acquire Cliff Lee from the Phillies, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler writes, "but at this point the Phillies seem to have most people in baseball convinced that they won't trade Lee (or maybe anyone else)."
  • In NL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, we shared some Marlins-related news and also some Mets items as part of a collection of New York Notes.