James McCann Makes Sense For Mets Even At Four Years
In a vacuum, a four year deal for the 30 year old James McCann is a curious one. Essentially, the Mets are giving McCann a fairly long term contract deal off a career year.
If you’re doing that, you better believe his 2020 breakout is real. As has been well documented, it very well might be.
As broken down very well by Dilip Sridhar of MMO, much of McCann’s transformation was due to his working with Jerry Narron. This led to McCann altering his stance behind the plate helping him go from a very poor framer to becoming an elite framer in 2020.
In addition to the significantly improved defense, McCann has been steadily improving at the plate.
In each of the past three seasons, McCann’s exit velocities have improved. This coincides with an improved launch angle and barrel rate.
McCann has been increasingly hitting the ball harder and further, and he’s going it while walking more. Sure, he’s likely to regress from his 144 wRC+ for a few reasons, but that said, we can reasonably expect McCann to be an above average hitter.
That’s important because among catchers with at least 500 PA, there are only nine with at least a 100 wRC+. Nine in the entire sport. Not only is McCann one of them, but he’s also third overall.
In McCann, you’re getting a catcher in his prime who has put it all together. He’s become elite defensively and at the plate. Arguably, he’s one of the best catchers in the game.
Still, he’s not viewed as THE best. Routinely, that title is either bestowed upon Yasmani Grandal or J.T. Realmuto. Grandal is the catcher who has supplanted McCann in Chicago, and Realmuto is arguably the top free agent available this offseason. Certainly, Realmuto is the top catching target.
When you have a hole at catcher, and you have the deepest pockets in the game, you still have to wonder why the Mets are jumping the gun on McCann when Realmuto is out there.
There’s a number of very good reasons.
First and foremost, there’s no guarantee the Mets get Realmuto. It’s eminently possibly there is a bidding war for Realmuto and another team makes an offer the Mets don’t feel comfortable matching.
During this time, maybe another team has already swooped in to nab McCann. That leaves the Mets with a massively steep drop off to where they’re debating borderline starting options like Yadier Molina or Mike Zunino.
If you’re the Mets, you can’t put yourselves in that position. They need to do all they can to upgrade their catching position, and they can’t get flat footed where they’re stuck with Molina, Zunino, or even the return of Wilson Ramos.
It’s far better to act fast on McCann than being in a position to effectively get nothing or really overpay Realmuto.
In terms of Realmuto, there are issues. First and foremost, he had hip issues. That’s not something likely to improve now that he’s on the wrong side of 30.
Perhaps more of an obstacle than that is the price tag. There are rumors Realmuto is looking for a $200 million contract. Chances are Realmuto isn’t going to get that, but he may press for a $20+ million AAV.
Given his abilities at and behind the plate, he’s very likely well worth that. You can imagine there’s going to be at least one team willing to come close or surpass that.
Unfortunately, the Mets are not a team in position to do that. This is a team who still has a lot to do even assuming they’ve signed McCann.
The team still needs at least one other starter and another reliever. They also need a center fielder. In terms of center, George Springer appears to be the only truly viable option meaning the Mets will need to go that extra mile for him.
Cohen has deep pockets, but even he will have his limits. Keep in mind, that’s just this offseason. There’s still the matter of extensions for Michael Conforto, Marcus Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard on the horizon as well as arbitration raises for much of their roster.
In the end, it’s better for the Mets to secure McCann now to ensure they get a significant upgrade at catcher than to lose out all together. We should also consider this could very well be part of a larger plan both for this year and the ensuing years.
For some, McCann may be disappointing, and they may still believe the Mets should’ve pushed for Realmuto. To that, we just need to see what happens. The key will be what Realmuto receives in free agency, and more importantly, what the Mets do from this point forward.
Regardless of where you land on this and what happens, one thing is abundantly clear – the Mets are significantly better with McCann than they were previously.