White Sox catcher James McCann was quietly one of the most productive backstops of 2019, during which he slashed .273/.328/.460 with 2.3 fWAR across 476 plate appearances. But McCann’s offensive numbers petered out as the year progressed, and he’s now done as the team’s No. 1 option after it signed fellow catcher Yasmani Grandal to a club-record guarantee worth $73MM over four years just under a month ago.
Despite adding Grandal as their undisputed first-string catcher, the White Sox appear perfectly content to retain McCann as a backup. According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, it would take an overwhelming offer for the White Sox to part with McCann, who’s entering his final year of team control (in which he’ll earn a projected $4.9MM).
Even though the free-agent market for catchers has shrunk (Grandal and Travis d’Arnaud are among those who have signed), odds are good that no one will bowl over Chicago in an effort to get McCann. After all, before heading to the Windy City, McCann was largely a below-average producer with the Tigers from 2014-18 – a 1,658-plate appearance span in which he managed a meager .240/.288/.366 line. That subpar performance helped influence the Tigers to non-tender McCann a little over 12 months ago. Behind the plate, McCann has regularly fared well at throwing out would-be base stealers. The 29-year-old has caught 36 percent of runners (compared to a 29 percent league-average mark) since he first cracked the majors. However, McCann has typically earned poor overall defensive marks from Baseball Prospectus.
While McCann does have his flaws, he could nonetheless keep garnering a solid amount of playing time if the White Sox keep him. Grandal’s locked in as their top catcher, but he’s a good enough offensive hitter to pick up reps at DH and/or first base should the club try to limit his wear and tear, which would open up playing time for McCann.