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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.
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)