Deal with Mets closes James McCann’s nifty little White Sox career

The most successful free agent signing in Rick Hahn’s history is now the most controversial free agent signing of the New York Mets’ nascent administration.

James McCann is closing in on a deal with the Mets for four years and over $40 million, replacing Wilson Ramos as the everyday catcher in Queens. It’s a helluva turnaround for McCann, who went from being non-tendered over a small sum by the Detroit Tigers three winters ago to a rare four-year contract to a catcher on the open market.

It’s hard to contextualize McCann’s value until the market’s top catcher, J.T. Realmuto, lands somewhere. I’d mentally assigned three years at $8-10 million for McCann, so four years and $40 million feels steep.

At the same time, with McCann holding his gains at the plate from 2019 while making major leaps with his receiving in 2020, it’s hard to think of a specific complaint with him as a primary catcher. Maybe he doesn’t hit righties well enough, but most catchers don’t hit at all.

YearPAAVG/OBP/SLGOPS+CDAbWARfWARWARP
2019476.273/.328/.460108-7.63.72.31.0
2020111.289/.360/.5361441.51.31.50.8
(*CDA = Baseball Prospectus’ Catcher Defense Adustment)

There’s a chance the Mets overpaid McCann, but if Steve Cohen turns the club into a financial juggernaut sooner than later, perhaps he’s just being highly paid by an owner who doesn’t mind inefficiency. Either way, good for McCann.

It’s also good for the White Sox, because it brings a successful story to a tidy conclusion. You basically had to like the way everybody conducted themselves over his two years on the South Side. McCann turned a one-year, $2.5 million deal into an All-Star season, albeit with some caution flags. The White Sox still had major issues with strike zones for their pitchers, not to mention an OBP and lineup imbalance problems teamwide, so they went ahead and signed Yasmani Grandal. McCann could’ve been upset, but instead he improved further in all aspects, and gave Rick Renteria the ability to play both catchers in the same lineup. He also fostered a unique connection with Lucas Giolito that culminated in a no-hitter and a dominant victory in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series. Everybody had a great time.

If McCann’s market lagged, and his demands lowered to maybe half of that $40 million, the White Sox might’ve had a way to try making it work. At four years and $40 million, the White Sox would be doubling the risk of lengthy commitments to catchers in their 30s, and with diminishing returns given McCann’s 33-percent strikeout rate against right-handed pitching in 2020.

Regardless of what he does from here, this was McCann’s stop. Savor the lack of complaints, and hope that there are more overachievers in store.

(James McCann portrait by Carl Skanberg)

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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knoxfire30

Good for him, thought maybe 3 for 30 but to get a full extra year wow! Mets seem now the heavy favorites for Springer, must be nice to have ownership that cares. On that note, Bruce Levine was saying the whitesox budget this off season was 30 mil… haha about half of what came off the books, absolutely pathetic. #cubplan #moneywillbespent #joke

Oddvark

James McCann doesn’t belong in the major leagues. He offers nothing at the plate outside of the odd extra-base hit. McCann can throw, but that’s about it. This move is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but the decision to hand McCann a major league contract was simply incompetent.
Decision Grade: F

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Man, what a difference a couple of (good) years made!

As Cirensica

At that point, most of us agreed with that analysis. I think pNoles wrote it. We love to be wrong the way we were with McCann. Unfortunately those happens rarely.

MrStealYoBase

As much as McCann has completely turned critiques of his game on their head over the last two years, the one question that’s always been there is can he be THE guy?

Production in 2019 was great over his first 80 games, less so over the last 40. He wasn’t overexposed in 2020.

It’s hard to say who he is going to be over 130+ games for the Mets. At least he’s getting a second chance to prove that he can do it.

dwjm3

Isn’t 1f/war roughly worth 7 million?

Seems like quite the overpay

karkovice squad

It seems even more generous when seeing players paid more than $5m/WAR getting non-tendered. Or when you factor in that $/WAR aren’t distributed equally across the diamond, teams tend to skimp on catchers unless they have MVP-caliber bats.

asinwreck

The interesting question now is where does Realmuto go? While the Phillies want to bring him back, their payroll is supposedly going down despite not trading Zack Wheeler for Babe Ruth. The Yankees retained Gary Sanchez and Brian Cashman’s public comments indicate he’ll be the starter in 2021. The Mets no longer need a starting catcher.

Who else would be willing to spend for the top catcher on the market? My best guess is the Angels, though I could see the Padres making an offer despite trading for Nola last summer.

With McCann gone, the Sox should get another veteran who has shown the capacity to catch and at least have competitive at bats. I do not feel comfortable with any of Collins, Zavala, or Mercedes as the primary backup in 2021. Fortunately, there are a lot of veterans catchers on the market this winter, so we may have a reprise of the speculation we had two years ago with somewhat lower stakes now that Grandal is on the team.

ParisSox

Molina and Wainwright

John SF

This is the future of Cub hating Sox fans. We’ll just appropriate as many legends of the good Cardinals teams as we can.

For the record, I would totally support both signings given our needs and how low those prices should be.

Last edited 1 year ago by John SF
As Cirensica

I have a feeling Hahn won’t sign up a back up catcher and we will roll with Collins.

asinwreck

Michael Kenny

It’s nice to see a former White Sox player actually do well in free agency, because it means his career didn’t collapse here.

The only other worthwhile players I can think of who have left since 2005 are Mark Buehrle and Jeff Samardzija. Is that really it?

Last edited 1 year ago by Michael Kenny
craigws

Was gonna say Thome, but the Twins got him cheap (to add extra insult to injury).

John SF

Swarzack and Frazier both did well in 2018 free agency. I’m pretty sure we’ve briefly revived the careers of quite a few relievers, although I’ve never done the research to see if that’s just a thing you can say about every team.

Mat Albers, Joakim Soria, and soon-to-be Alex Colomé are all guys who have earned 8 figures or more post Sox. Not to mention Sale via his extension and Quintana later this winter.

mikeschach

It might seem like an overpay, but IIRC the last time a catcher with the initials JM moved from the White Sox to the Mets, his flapping elbow helped win a world series.

As Cirensica

Very nice….

For those who wonder:

denny

I thought all along that the W Sox would have made an extension offer before he reached the FA deadline (and maybe they did). I base this more on his preparedness, his ‘connection’ with the young pitchers (most notably Giolito), and his performance. Seems he didn’t want to be second banana to Grandal, but the 75 or so games he would have started would have masked his deficiencies. McCann was definitely a cut above the W Sox’ options to fill the backup catcher roster spot (both from within the system and outside acquisitions). Anyone think it’s Collins ? Mercedes ? I don’t see it yet.

John SF

He really wanted to be “the guy” and the everyday catcher. The way he swallowed his pride after we signed Grandal actually was the first rule I really hoped we would find a way to keep him.

I’m still not sure we shouldn’t have offered him a QO. Yeah, he totally might have taken it, and then we would have been forced to pay him something not much worse than his market rate value for one more year.

But he probably wouldn’t have, because his paycheck on the open market was always going to be at least twice that and at his age there was never going to be a better market than the one he has right now.