Browsing Posts tagged Chris Stewart

On Saturday, the Yankees and free agent catcher, Brian McCann agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract. The 6’3″, 230 pound, 29-year-old, lefty swinging McCann spent his first eight seasons with the Atlanta Braves. As Atlanta’s full-time catcher, McCann hit at least 20 home runs in seven of his eight seasons. McCann, a career .279 hitter, also made the NL All-Star team seven times.  McCann will earn an average of $17 million per season, which will make him baseball’s highest paid catcher.

The upgrade from Chris Stewart to Brian McCann is the biggest positional improvement the Yankees could make. During 2013, McCann dealt with a shoulder injury, but posted a .795 OPS, which would have ranked third among American League catchers behind only Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana. Lefty power hitters are always welcome in Yankee Stadium and the short porch in right field will definitely boost McCann’s power numbers.  McCann does not have drastic splits, but he hits righties better (.285/.362/.495) than lefties (.259/.320/.424). Those split should help the Yankees spell McCann with Francisco Cervelli, who hits lefties. Don’t forget about the DH-slot, either where McCann can take a half-day off and mash against righties. 

Defensively, Fangraphs ranks McCann as an above average catcher. According to FG, over the last three seasons, McCann’s superior pitch framing ability alone has saved 65 runs. Over the last ten years, Atlanta has had a revolving door of good, young arms and Atlanta always ranks towards the top of ERA leaders. McCann’s ability to handle a young pitching staff cannot be understated. The Yankees don’t have a surplus of young arms, but McCann’s track record suggests he’ll be able to quickly learn the Yankee staff.

McCann is regarded as an emotional, gritty player and that’s exactly what the Yankees need. McCann has gotten into his share of altercations with opposing players, but that’s what teams want out our their catchers. McCann is a tough guy and will not let other teams showboat or showoff. 

This off-season’s free agent catcher class was headlined by McCann, Carlos Ruiz, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Phillies quickly retained Ruiz and the Yankees had a glaring need for an upgrade behind the plate. While the price tag may seem steep, Fangraphs projects McCann as a 4.5 to 5.0 win player during 2014. $6 million per win is the baseline in player valuation and if McCann can exceed a WAR of 3.0, he’ll pay off his salary. Make no mistake about it–Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, and co. did an excellent job behind the plate last season, but McCann will hopefully remind Yankee fans of the glory days of Jorge Posada

It’s been a difficult offseason for Yankee fans. Derek Jeter broke his ankle, but should return for Spring Training. Alex Rodriguez, who is undergoing hip surgery, will miss at least half of 2013. Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez, and Andruw Jones, who combined to hit 94 home runs, signed elsewhere. Rafael Soriano, who saved 42 games, is also expected to sign elsewhere. For better or worse, the Yankees were not linked to any top free agents. The Yankee brass is committed to spending less than baseball’s $189 million luxury tax threshold by 2014, so free agent spending sprees are off the table.

Brian Cashman always emphasizes the importance of keeping his ‘core’ together, so four key pieces were re-signed to team friendly deals. Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda signed one-year deals while Ichrio Suzuki signed a two-year deal. These deals should help the Yankees win in 2013, but each player is over 40-years-old and adds little value to the future of the team.

The Yankees are one of the oldest teams in baseball, but still boast some of the game’s best players. Jeter and Ichiro will set the table for Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson. CC Sabathia will be supported by Kuroda, Pettitte, and Phil Hughes in the starting rotation. Mariano Rivera and David Robertson will lock down the backend of the bullpen. This core won 95 games last season, so anything less will be a failure.

While the Yankees boast a strong core, many are questioning their complementary parts. As of today, the Yankees have not named a starting catcher or designated hitter. Cashman will not sign a free agent catcher, so expect a combination of Francisco Cervelli-Chris Stewart-Austin Romine to start. Kevin Youkilis will start at third base, but he was signed as A-Rod’s caddy. The Yankees will need Youkilis to play third base and DH, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. If Youkilis suffers another injury, will the team trust Eduardo Nunez to play third base? Nunez is currently the de-facto designated hitter, but Cashman always extends multiple Spring Training invites. The Yankees have a glutton of left handed hitters in its outfield, so expect a right handed bat to join this threesome. Remember, Marcus Thames and Raul Ibanez were signed late and played significant roles. Expect similar moves.

Going into 2013, the Yankees have a very small margin for error. The roster is primarily comprised of older players that may break down. Each AL East foe improved its roster and many are expecting the Toronto Blue Jays to win the division. However, the Yankees boasted baseball’s best run differential and have a roster full of players that have endured October battles. The Yankees continue to pour resources into scouting and player development, but don’t count them out. In terms of player development and a more cost conscious approach, the 2013 season may prove to be a transition year. That doesn’t mean the Yankees are incapable of raising another AL East flag.