Mets Should Hold Onto James McCann
The popular sentiments is for the New York Mets to part ways with James McCann. Seeing the way he has completely underperformed his contract, you can certainly understand the sentiments. However, looking solely at the contract is misguided.
When looking at McCann, the discussion should be over what exactly he can provide to this franchise. Moreover, this should be an analysis over what exactly is out there as a replacement. On that point, lets look at what McCann is at the moment.
In 2022, McCann was limited to 61 games partially because of injury and partially because he was surpassed by Tomas Nido as the Mets primary catcher. While one of the reasons the Mets obtained him was the bat, he had a career worst 59 wRC+. For a second straight season, his hard hit rate was too low to provide any sort of power.
Realistically speaking, McCann is just not going to hit. He is a ninth place hitter. He is not providing anything with the bat. However, he is going to provide something behind the plate.
While not as good as Nido, he was top 20 in the majors in pitch framing. We saw during the season, he was able to get on the same page as his pitchers. That was especially true with Chris Bassitt who struggled at first when McCann went down. In fact, looking at the starting staff Max Scherzer was the only pitcher who pitched better with Nido.
In fact, looking at pitchers for next season, Tylor Megill and David Peterson were considerably better with McCann. Aside from Scherzer, those are probably the one two pitchers as close to guaranteed to be returning to the Mets next season.
The major caveat here is we are dealing with small sample sizes. However, behind that small sample size is something worth analyzing. Looking at Bassitt in particular, McCann seemed better than Nido when it came to getting on the same page as his pitching staff and calling games. This is an intangible skill for a catcher which should not be overlooked.
Of course, the big elephant in the room is Francisco Álvarez. He was called up at the end of last season, and it would seem to everyone he should be the Mets starting catcher in 2023. However, that could be more fan than organizational reaction.
At the moment, we really do not know what the Mets plans are for Álvarez next season. Perhaps, he will be the starting catcher. Maybe, they wanted his bat in September but still think he needs more time to work on his defense. The Mets may even want to try to manipulate his service time for a bit. At this moment, it is still a bit of a mystery.
What we do know is by its nature the catching position is one with a number of injuries. We saw the Mets have to make an emergency trade for Michael Perez and play him last season. Much like with starting pitching, the name of the game is depth. You really cannot have enough Major League caliber catchers.
Like it or not, that is McCann. You can argue it would behoove the Mets to carry both McCann and Nido and wait for one of them to get injured before calling up Álvarez. At that point, if Álvarez claims the job outright, you can look to trade one of McCann or Nido or just outright designate them for assignment.
The Mets could also have all three catchers on the roster. With Daniel Vogelbach, Álvarez could be the answer for the right-handed platoon option. We can see McCann and Nido link up with starters to become their personal catchers. The Mets could rotate them as needed to ensure all of them are fresh throughout the season. That goes double for Álvarez who has never caught 80 games in a season.
Another benefit of the three catchers is permitting McCann to mentor Álvarez. He can help him work on game plans and building a rapport with pitchers. McCann could be that veteran leader to help Álvarez. Certainly, seeing Álvarez’s future and McCann’s contract at its inception, you had to imagine on some level that would be the Mets plan.
Whatever the case, it would seem McCann serves some purpose to the Mets in 2023. He works well with the pitching staff. He frames very well. He provides depth at a position where teams need it. He can serve as a mentor for Álvarez. Overall, it would seem McCann has value to the Mets next season, and unless the right move is there, they should strongly consider bringing him back for at least one more season.