The New York Mets have become more aggressive in their pursuit of James McCann, and now they’re closing in on a deal.
Last week, Robert Murray of FanSided reported that the New York Mets and James McCann were in active discussions. It was more a report of the Mets’ interest than anything substantial at that point, but things have become more serious since then.
Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network is reporting that the Mets and McCann are closing in on a four-year deal.
Mets getting close with free-agent catcher James McCann, sources tell The Athletic. Deal expected to be four years.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 9, 2020
McCann is universally considered the second-best catcher on the free-agent market. His offensive breakout the past two seasons has been nothing short of astonishing. Since joining the White Sox, McCann has been one of the best offensive catchers in MLB.
He’s third in the majors among catchers in wRC+ and fifth in fWAR over the last two seasons. His slash line of .276/.334/.474 is impressive. There’s little reason to doubt that he can’t sustain his offensive breakout.
McCann’s hard-hit rate has been on the rise over the past few seasons. His line-drive rate has increased while his groundball rate has decreased. Probably the best indicator in regard to his offensive success though is that he was able to sustain his increase in BABIP across 2019 and 2020.
The questions for McCann come defensively. Prior to 2020, he was one of the worst defensive catchers in MLB. McCann was worth -7.6 fielding runs above average in 2019 — 101st in MLB. That’s on par with Wilson Ramos. Even more damning is his -8 framing runs saved — 104th in MLB. That’s worse than Ramos, who was worth -4.7 framing runs saved — 97th in MLB.
However, McCann did show incredible improvement in 2020. He was a positive pitch framer and was nominated for a Gold Glove Award. Still, he only played in 31 games in 2020. That’s hardly a large enough sample size to make any sweeping judgments on his defensive improvement.
Is it possible he’s improved drastically in just a year’s time? Sure — J.T. Realmuto went from a negative defender to one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. That said, 30 games is nowhere near enough of a sample size to make any judgments on McCann. Plenty of players have undergone an excellent 30-game stretch. It’s about painting that improvement long term, or even over the course of a season.
The Mets are willing to bet on that defensive improvement being real. Only time will tell if they’re getting a steal or just setting themselves up with another Wilson Ramos-esque contract.