Jobu Welcomes the newest New York Yankee, Brian McCann!
I know Yankees fans shouldn’t really complain. The last time we didn’t make the playoffs was 2008, and ownership responded by signing CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett. In all, they committed nearly $500MM to free agents and won the World Series. While it was worth it come October, ownership has seemingly backed down from their wild spending (probably has a lot to do with the death of George Steinbrenner and the rise of Hal and Hank), and the last couple of seasons has seen the Yankees bring in such high powered names as Andruw Jones, Freddy Garcia, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibañez, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells. Please excuse me as I wipe the vomit from the corners of my mouth. Can you now see why we’re so excited to have Brian McCann??
We’ve talked about McCann throughout the off-season. I’ve trumpeted his skills on the field and as a clubhouse leader and upholder of the integrity of the game (don’t you dare, Carlos Gomez and Jose Fernandez!). In the end, the Yankees got our (and their) man, signing McCann to a 5 year, $85MM contract to be the latest in a line of great Yankees catchers (just barely nudging the great Chris Stewart, of course).
What will McCann bring to the table? I think the best thing about McCann, is that he’s not Chris Stewart. Seriously. How devastated were we when Francisco Cervelli got hurt last year? Very. Now consider the fact that we got that upset about Francisco… Cervelli! I mean nothing against Frankie. He’s actually one of my favorite character guys on the team, but he’s not exactly a game changer. If you’re that upset to lose him, the backup options must be pretty shitty. Let’s not forget that, not only is McCann not Stewart, he’s Brian friggin’ McCann! He’s easily one of the top five catchers in baseball. He can hold his own on defense (although not a gold glover by any means), and he can straight up mash.
Now, I’m not gonna go crazy and say that Yankees Stadium makes him a 35-40 homer guy like some of my fellow bloggers and writers, but I could see where a healthy Brian McCann gets 3-5 more home runs playing at The Stadium than he would playing in Turner Field. I think this deal turns McCann from a 20-25 homer guy into a 25-30 homer guy. If the top of the order gets on base, McCann should approach somewhere between 90-100 RBI. I hesitate to predict too much in the RBI department because Catchers need days off every once in a while. At least Girardi can plug McCann into the DH role on those days (unlike Stewart), which should boost McCann’s playing time and productivity.
The only question that remains now is what the Yankees will do with all of their catching prospects. Off the bat, I think Cervelli should be the major league backup, and he should play only against righties. Frankie isn’t going to knock down any barns with his swing, but he has more than held his own against southpaws, slashing .305/.402/.389 in 167 career ABs. The ultimate prospect at catcher for the Yankees is young Gary Sanchez. He’s supposed to become what McCann is now, except from the right side. The good news in this situation is that Sanchez is only 20, and jut got to AA last year. This McCann deal allows the Yankees to be more patient with Sanchez. I expect him to have a full year at AA next year (with maybe a late AAA call up, and then a full year of AAA in 2015. The kid can hit, but still needs to work on his defense. This signing gives him a couple of years to take it easy and hone his craft. In 2016, Sanchez can either start in AAA, or just be the major league backup, if the Yankees feel he’s ready. By 2017, the Yankees can start maybe sliding McCann into more DH at bats, depending on his health.
That leaves us with what to do about the two guys that have earned themselves, at the very least, the tarting job in AAA. I think Austin Romine, unfortunately for him, has earned himself a major league job. Because of everything that went wrong last year, Romine ended up spending the bulk of the season on the big league club. While he didn’t exactly prove his worth as an every day player, the hot stretch he had in the summer proves that he deserves at least a part time major league role, despite only having 35 career games in AAA. He’s also 25, which means he’s probably not going to learn any more in AAA than he already has.
That brings us to J.R. Murphy, whom Yankees fans also met last year (after Romine got hurt and there were no other options). Murphy began the 2012 season at AA, earned a midseason call up to AAA, and eventually was the last player ever to catch Mariano Rivera. Murphy wasn’t supposed to be in the big leagues last year. In an ideal world, Romine would have established himself, been named the major league starter for 2014, and Murphy would have slid into the every day AAA role. Now, with the McCann signing, the Yankees are faced with the dilemma of who to start at AAA. I think the Yankees brass needs to make a decision. They either figure out which of the two will have the most major league value in the future, or who will fetch more in a potential trade. Once they know that, they need to figure out which guy they want to keep, and trade the other one, assuming they go with Cervelli as the backup. There’s no need to have those two guys fighting it out for plate appearances at AAA when they have a stud like Sanchez holding AA down and knocking on the door anyway.
I’ll definitely be interested to see what the Yankees decide to do about their catching situation. At least we know we won’t have to see Chris Stewart ever again (right??)
Featured image courtesy of: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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