Arguably the biggest reason for the Yankees missing the playoffs this year was the catching situation. In the previous offseason, they let Russell Martin sign with Pittsburgh, so they went with a revolving door of Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli, later Austin Romine and later J.R. Murphy.
Predictably, it was a disaster, as they finished near the bottom of the majors in almost every offensive category. With any top catching prospect at least a year or two away, they had to make an immediate upgrade this winter.
They got their upgrade on Saturday, and it was a big one. They signed former Braves backstop Brian McCann to a five year deal worth $85 million with a sixth year option. McCann has a career 117 OPS+ with 20+ home runs in seven of his last eight seasons playing at Turner Field.
Yes, the contract is pretty big, especially for a catcher going into his 30s. But there’s a lot of factors to consider that make this move a total no-brainer for the Yankees and should be the start of a series of moves that will put New York in position to be contenders again in 2014.
Obviously, he is just about the biggest upgrade they could have made to their biggest hole. Since coming into the league in 2005, only Joe Mauer and the now-retired Jorge Posada have put up better numbers at the catching position. With his left-handed swing, the move from the Ted to the new Yankee Stadium will sustain his power numbers and help him fight the age curve.
Although he only throws at about 24% of base-stealers, he does rate out above averagely in pitch-framing and blocking the plate. He’s not a total liability behind the plate. The way the Yankees payroll is currently set-up, they could easily put him at first base or DH in his last few years once Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are gone.
One of my favorite parts of signing McCann is an intangible one. Yes, he came under fire recently this year for his antics against show-boating players like Carlos Gomez and Jose Fernandez. But you know what? I think that’s what the Yankees need. They didn’t have that last year. Posada used to be that guy who brought the emotion and the fire to this team.
I can already see him taking exception to David Ortiz showboating on one of his home run trots. Also, if A-Rod wins his appeal, and the Red Sox try to hit him again, McCann will make sure the Yankees don’t back down and retaliate, swiftly.
With this move, the Yankees have shown that they are serious about bucking the $189 million trend and spending to build a contender in 2014. Expect them to make more upgrades this offseason, particularly in the outfield and the rotation. Hopefully it also means that they will be ready to pay Robinson Cano (not $300 million, of course, but still a pretty big, but fair deal).