yankees mets james mccann
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Catcher James McCann is among the most popular free agents this season, and both the New York Yankees and New York Mets are interested.

James Kelly

The New York Yankees and New York Mets have catching problems, and James McCann might be the answer.

McCann’s days with the White Sox are over. Now that they have Yasmani Grandal, there is no reason for them to outbid another team for McCann’s services. So now Yankees fans can spend all winter arguing about whether he’s better than Gary Sanchez and Mets fans can complain about settling for McCann instead of J.T. Realmuto.

It should be a fun offseason on New York baseball Twitter.

McCann is a good catcher. He’s not a superstar, but he would be a valuable asset to both teams. He didn’t get a lot of run in 2020 behind Yasmani Grandal, but in 111 plate appearances, he slashed .289/.360./536 for an .896 OPS. That gave him the fourth-ranked wRC+ among catchers at 144. But that’s not just small sample size success. In 2019, McCann had 476 plate appearances and finished with an wRC+ of 109, ranked 10th among catchers.

Defensively, McCann showed drastic improvements in 2020 in framing. He posted a career high in framing strike rate at 51.4%, a marked improvement over his 2019 performance at just 45.0%. His pop time and arm strength are nothing to write home about, but his exceptional offense is more than enough to make up for his average defense.

Where Does McCann Fit on the Yankees?

So why do the Yankees want him? They already have an offensively-minded catcher in Gary Sanchez. And his backup Kyle Higashioka is fantastic behind the plate and Gerrit Cole’s favorite target. What could they stand to gain from bringing in James McCann?

Offensive consistency.

It’s no secret to Yankee fans that Gary Sanchez was abysmal across the board in 2020. But their dislike of him stems from years of seeing him be the best hitter in the league for two weeks and then a black hole where hits go to die for the next month. He hits the ball as hard as anyone in the league but doesn’t actually hit it that often. Case in point, in 2020 he posted a 17.4% barrel rate and 50% hard-hit rate. Those are undoubtedly elite numbers.

Unfortunately, they came along with a 36% strikeout rate 34% whiff rate. Hitting the ball 100 mph doesn’t do you much good when you can’t actually hit the ball.

McCann won’t sign on to be the backup catcher. And the Yankees couldn’t even sign him to do that. Higashioka is out of minor league options and they won’t designate him for assignment if their $324 million ace likes throwing to him. It’s either sign McCann and move on from Sanchez, or let Sanchez have another year to figure it out.

So are the Yankees ready to move on from Sanchez? It’s too early to know for sure. But it’s not too early to check the market out and see if there’s a suitable replacement for Sanchez out there should they decide to move on. McCann would be a fantastic replacement if they decided to move Sanchez. And with the state of the market and his limited playing action in 2020, the Yankees may be able to bring him in on a good deal.

Why The Mets Are After Him

As for the Mets, they need a catcher desperately fits their needs. But the catch here is that the Mets had been heavily rumored to be involved in the J.T. Realmuto sweepstakes.

Obviously, Realmuto is a much better catcher. And new owner Steve Cohen has the seemingly unlimited resources necessary to ignore a slow market and acquire whoever he wants for however much they want. Will that be Realmuto? Maybe, maybe not. The Mets seem to be more interested in George Springer. And while Cohen can spend infinite money, it doesn’t mean he should.

So if you take Realmuto off the table, the Mets and McCann are a fantastic match. And if they decide they want to go the McCann route, it’s highly doubtful that anyone else is capable of offering him a better contract than the Mets.

The Mets should be considered the favorites to sign McCann. The Yankees simply won’t match the Mets offer with Sanchez still in house. The Angels could make a solid run for him but if the Mets really want him, they’ll get him. The Cardinals could very well bring Yadier Molina back to finish his career with them. And the Phillies have already cried poverty to justify letting Realmuto go. The Mets are the only team with the pressing need and extensive resources to ensure that McCann signs with them if they want him.

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