NY Mets: 10 best free agents for Steve Cohen to buy this winter
5) James McCann
I don’t understand why the White Sox signed Yasmani Grandal last offseason. James McCann is most definitely a capable option behind the plate for most teams in baseball. As you know, McCann is not the number one option at catcher in free agency, but he is definitely worth a look if J.T. Realmuto signs elsewhere.
McCann is one of the more underrated players in all of baseball. When he first came up to the majors in Detroit, he was always known for his glove. He still does have a great glove behind the plate. What makes McCann stand out now, is his bat has caught up the last couple of years. McCann was an all-star in 2019 as he slashed .279/.328/.460 with 18 home runs and 60 RBI.
This season, McCann kept up his solid hitting, but didn’t play every day. In 31 games (111 at bats) McCann slashed .289/.360/.536 with seven home runs and 15 RBI. If those seven home runs were in the first 31 games of the season, and the season was 162 games, he would be on pace for 37 home runs. While I know catchers don’t play every day, that’s extremely rare offensive production from a catcher.
The Mets for years have been looking for their catcher. They thought it would be Travis d’Arnaud, but he has decided to wait until he got to Atlanta to produce. For the last two seasons, we’ve watched Wilson Ramos. He did have that 26-game hitting streak last season, but if you take that out, he wasn’t that great offensively. And this season, Ramos slashed .239/.297/.387 with just five home runs and 15 RBI.
As we all know, Ramos was terrible behind the plate as a Met. So many passed balls, and the missed tag in Philadelphia still haunts me. The Mets tried putting him on one knee and setting up lower to steal more strikes. That didn’t work, and it caused more passed balls as he couldn’t move to block a ball. We also know how slow Ramos is. Any ground ball on the infield with a man on base was a sure double play no matter how slowly it was hit. McCann would be an upgrade in every facet of the game over Ramos. He can hit, he can defend, and he’s not the slowest man in baseball.
In terms of contracts, I think McCann will probably get a two or three-year deal. He will be significantly cheaper than Realmuto and will give the Mets the chance to just call up their number two prospect Francisco Alvarez when his contract is up. As a secondary option, it doesn’t get much better than McCann and if Realmuto signs elsewhere, I believe the Mets must sign him.
4) Kirby Yates
Kirby Yates had an injury riddled 2020 season which limited him to just six appearances for the Padres. His season ended on August 18th and he got surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. In the last two seasons prior, Yates was one of the top relievers in baseball. Last season, he led the National League with 41 saves and had an ERA of 1.19 in 60.2 innings of work. He had a 15.0 K/9 and just 1.9 BB/9. Yates also only allowed two home runs in his 60.2 innings pitched. It was truly a phenomenal season.
Due to his injury, Yates might be a buy low candidate for the Mets. The 33-year-old is not the top closer on the market, Liam Hendriks is, and is way more of a risk due to his age and coming off of elbow surgery. Also, in the 4.1 innings he did pitch in this season, he allowed six earned runs.
Whether that was due to pitching with the injury or not remains to be seen, but I think Yates will be searching for more of a “prove it” deal. If he can get a one-year deal with the Mets and be the closer or the set-up man for Edwin Diaz, he will have earned himself a ton of money for the future.
I think the Mets need to stop overpaying for relievers. It rarely works. They did it with Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances. Both contracts are bad and they’ve underperformed. The Mets have so many holes, to the point where I don’t think it’s worth it to spend big on relievers.
Yates should be cheaper than guys like Liam Hendriks and might be just as productive in the short term. I think Yates is the best value play in terms of the relievers available for the Mets to pursue, and would love for them to sign him on a one-year deal.