3:55pm: The Tigers are likely to non-tender catcher James McCann before tonight’s deadline, per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. MLB.com’s Jason Beck offers a similar sentiment, tweeting that McCann will be non-tendered “barring a last-minute surprise.”
McCann, 28, hit .253/.318/.415 with a career-high 13 home runs as recently as 2017, but his offense cratered in 2018 as he slashed just .220/.267/.314 with eight home runs in 457 plate appearances as Detroit’s primary catcher. More troubling, perhaps, was the fact that while the right-handed-hitting McCann had previously been a force against left-handed pitching, he batted a woeful .176/.229/.284 when holding the platoon advantage in 2018.
On the defensive side of the coin, McCann has continually been sensational in terms of controlling the running game. He’s registered at least a 30 percent caught-stealing rate in each of his four full big league seasons, including a 36 percent mark in 2018 and an overall rate of 37 percent. He’s been well below-average in terms of pitch framing across the past two seasons, though, and has struggled similarly in terms of blocking balls in the dirt.
MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected McCann to earn $3.5MM in arbitration, but it seems he’ll instead hit the open market and join a top-heavy but nonetheless crowded crop of free-agent catchers. Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos, Martin Maldonado, Jonathan Lucroy, Robinson Chirinos, Devin Mesoraco, Matt Wieters, Nick Hundley and Rene Rivera are among the available options, to say nothing of trade candidates like J.T. Realmuto and Francisco Cervelli. Suffice it to say, McCann will have competition as clubs weigh their options — especially considering he’s likeliest to be looked at as a candidate to fill a backup role.