Seven-time All-Star Brian McCann is no longer the Yankees’ starting catcher, having lost the role this season to a sensational rookie, but the 32-year-old wants to continue his career in the Bronx.
“I hope I’m back,” McCann told Chad Jennings of the Lohud Yankees Blog. “I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out, but the future is extremely bright here. … I love it here. I love everything about it. Bright future. And I hope I’m a part of it.”
If the Yankees shop McCann in the offseason, he’ll have the main say in whether he stays with the club because he has a full no-trade clause. While McCann is signed through 2018 on the five-year, $85MM contract he inked with the Yankees in November 2013, questions about his future abound in the wake of Gary Sanchez’s emergence behind the plate. The Yankees gauged leaguewide trade interest in McCann before the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline, but no deal came to fruition. New York had discussions with the Braves, with whom he starred from 2005-13, though Atlanta wasn’t open to taking on McCann’s remaining $34MM. As of Sept. 1, the Braves were only willing to pay half of that figure, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. For now, the Yankees seem content to keep McCann.
“I’m hoping to use (McCann) in a lot of different ways,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Getting his bat into the lineup, his ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, having him catch. This is a guy that takes a lot of pride in that. Understands how to work young pitchers, old pitchers. He understands that. So, this is a guy that’s in our plans. He might move around and do different things, but we want his bat.”
McCann has brought plenty to the table as a hitter and defender throughout his career. However, despite Girardi’s compliments, he hasn’t quite lived up to offensive expectations in New York. McCann’s power has remained mostly intact, as he has swatted between 20 and 26 home runs in each of his three seasons with the Yankees and combined for a .183 ISO, but his overall output (.235/.313/.418 in 1,565 plate appearances) has fallen short of where it was in Atlanta. During his nine-year stint with the Braves, McCann batted .277/.350/.473 with 177 homers and a .196 ISO in 4,354 PAs.
McCann’s roughly league-average offensive production as a Yankee has been more than fine for a catcher, but it won’t be ideal for someone whose primary position going forward could be designated hitter, where McCann appeared in 30 games in 2016. As Jennings notes, though, the Yankees aren’t exactly overflowing with proven major leaguers at DH and first base, another spot McCann could spend time if he remains with the team. Greg Bird and Tyler Austin, two promising youngsters, are the leading in-house candidates to take over for the retired Mark Teixeira at first. Bird was terrific in 2015 over a 178-PA sample, but he missed all of this season with a torn labrum, while Austin hit a respectable .241/.300/.458 with five long balls in 90 trips to the plate as a rookie.
Of course, McCann also provides value as a defender, though he won’t be able to show off his prowess as a backstop as much with Sanchez having taken over behind the plate. Among 114 major league catchers, McCann ranked first in blocking and ninth in framing this season, according to Baseball Prospectus. On the downside, he only threw out 14-of-47 runners who attempted to steal. The big-armed Sanchez went a much better 13-for-32 while grading well as a framer. More impressively, he slashed .299/.376/.657 in 229 PAs and belted 20 homers in just 53 games. Along the way, Sanchez made a believer of McCann.
“Gary is the starting catcher here. He’s going to be that for a long, long time,” McCann told Jennings.