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.