James McCann is the second-best free agent catcher available this offseason. However, he does have flaws the New York Mets should look out for.
J.T. Realmuto is alone among the top-tier free agent catchers this offseason. The former Philadelphia Phillies backstop is one of the primary targets for the New York Mets to add to their roster. However, it’s always important to have a backup plan.
The best backup plan out there is James McCann. He’s someone you may have seen many people pivot toward in favor of spending the biggest dough elsewhere. While understanding, it’s also important to understand exactly what McCann is: a flawed athlete just like everyone else.
Even those with a preference for McCann over Realmuto understand this. McCann is number two on the list because he doesn’t have the numbers or resume to match what Realmuto does. A fine catcher and someone the team should highly consider, I think we should also look at the downside of what he could offer the Mets.
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McCann was an All-Star in 2019 and if the 2020 season was normal, he would have most certainly returned again. Combined in those two seasons with the Chicago White Sox, McCann slashed .276/.334/.474 with 25 home runs across 149 games played.
These numbers are great for any catcher. They’re about equal to what Realmuto accomplished in his last two years, hitting .273/.333/.492 with 36 home runs in 192 games.
One difference between the two that is very apparent from these numbers is how much of a workhorse Realmuto is. Since becoming a full-time starter back in 2015 with the Miami Marlins, Realmuto has never played in less than 125 games.
This isn’t necessarily a good sign for him, the Mets, or anyone else hoping to sign him to a deal. To me, it just means he has worked a lot of innings behind the plate.
But this isn’t about Realmuto. It’s about McCann and where the uncertainty lies with him.
McCann’s flaws we should have some concern about
McCann strikes out a lot. He may be hitting better than he did in his earlier days (more on that shortly), but it has come with more trips back to the dugout after strike three.
In 2019, McCann struck out 137 times in 476 trips to the plate. According to my calculator, that’s a strikeout once every 3.47 plate appearances. For his career, he’s averaging 154 per 162 games which is already a little high for my liking.
We can overlook an abundance of strikeouts if McCann hits. And that’s the multi-million dollar question. How well will he hit?
Until 2019, McCann was a lifetime .240/.288/.366 hitter with the Detroit Tigers. He never hit more than 13 home runs in a season. His single-season RBI high sat at 49.
Although a solid defender for his years with the Tigers and a guy with a good reputation for calling games, McCann was not a very productive bat. It’s the reason why the Tigers non-tendered him after the 2018 season.
McCann’s career numbers will disappoint many Mets fans eager to sign him. He’s a .249/.300/.394 hitter without a history of driving in runs. His 60 RBI in 2019 is the highest he has ever achieved.
When considering McCann, the Mets need to hope the White Sox version is the one they might land. Already preparing to turn 31 during the 2021 season, he’s at an age where players don’t typically get better.
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A lot of what the Mets do behind the plate is dependent on how much money Realmuto is looking for and the other places they intend to spend. McCann can be their guy, but it’s important to realize what he is: a good player now who could revert back to the one he was only a few seasons ago.