New York Mets catcher James McCann has become one of the more disliked members of the team’s starting lineup. A swell guy and superb defensive upgrade over just about every person to suit up behind the plate in the last three decades for the team, his offensive woes are beginning to grind the gears of Mets near and far.
Coming off two straight excellent years at the plate for the Chicago White Sox, McCann looks like his old self again. This isn’t a good thing. His old self, with the Detroit Tigers, was a .240 hitter with minimal power.
There is a chance that this $40+ million catcher the Mets added this winter isn’t the offensive player many were hoping they landed.
The Mets may have some buyer’s remorse sooner than we thought
I’ve already written extensively about McCann’s past and why it was worrisome to put high expectations on him. His only two truly good years at the plate came in 2019 (juiced baseballs) and 2020 (31 games played out of 60).
McCann’s time with the Mets in 2021 is already almost equal to what he did in 2020. Unfortunately, his batting average and OBP are about 100 points lower. His slugging percentage has taken an even great hit (no pun intended). The .536 he slugged in 2020 was unsustainable for him. However, the .460 he slugged a year prior when he hit a career-high 18 home runs for the White Sox did feel a little more realistic.
Sadly, McCann doesn’t have that power. He has been a strikeout and ground ball machine. He already has three times as many double plays grounded into this year than he did in all of 2020. What gives?
The Mets only had one other real option behind the plate this winter
Among the free agent choices for the Mets to explore, the only one we could argue was an upgrade over McCann is J.T. Realmuto. The Mets weren’t about to spend $100+ million on a catcher with a recent string of injuries. I can understand the Philadelphia Phillies overpaying for him because they at least got some years out of Realmuto prior to the new deal. The Mets, on the other hand, would be paying him far too much for past performance.
In which case, it’s hard to really criticize the Mets for actually going out and getting McCann. If they didn’t sign him, it’s possible the Phillies or another team like the Los Angeles Angels may have inked him to a contract. This would have left the Mets in a tough spot without a catcher.
If there is only one saving grace to McCann’s early performance in 2021, he has done plenty that doesn’t show up in the box score. Most notably, I have to believe the success the pitching staff has had this season is at least partially a credit to his ability to call a game.
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This was never an issue for McCann throughout his career. Even in his Tigers days, McCann was known as a good defender that could throw out runners at a pretty spectacular rate. He has given the Mets this. If that’s all the team gets, it may feel like a loss.