For years, the catcher position was the weakest spot in the lineup for the Mets. Guys like Wilson Ramos, Travis d’Arnaud, Josh Thole, and others never seemed to get the job done behind the dish offensively, defensively, or both.
Last offseason, the Mets had a choice. They could sign the best catcher in baseball in J.T. Realmuto to a long and lucrative deal or sign unproven James McCann to a cheaper deal. The Mets opted to sign McCann to a four-year $40 million-dollar deal while Realmuto got five years for $115 million dollars to re-up with the Phillies.
Signing the cheaper option made sense at the time to me, but giving four years to an unproven player seemed like a little too much.
The 2019 season was McCann’s only year of being productive as a starting catcher in this league. The White Sox then signed Yasmani Grandal after that season to catch and McCann became a part-time player again. While he did thrive, he only played in 31 games in 2020.
The four-year contract signaled that McCann was the guy behind the dish in Flushing at least until top prospect Francisco Alvarez was ready.
Things couldn’t have gone much worse for McCann this season. For most of the season, he was healthy and just flat out did not produce. He has slashed .232/.295/.350 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI this season.
One reason I can think of for his demise offensively has to do with his ground ball rate. McCann has hit 52.6% of his batted balls on the ground, 13% higher than last season. With his ground ball rate way up, his line drive rate has fallen to 19.7%, 14% lower than last season.
The ground balls make it hard for McCann to get any sort of lift on balls which is what made him so good offensively the last couple of seasons. He has just 21 extra-base hits in 393 at-bats which is just not good at all.
The backup catcher Tomas Nido is definitely not as good offensively as McCann is, but is one of the better defensive catchers in baseball. His defense is why he has put up a higher WAR (0.8) than McCann (0.5).
Nido is in the 100th percentile in pitch framing according to baseball savant while McCann is in the 54th percentile. Nido has thrown out 53% of potential base stealers while McCann has thrown out 29% of his potential base stealers. Both are well below average offensively but Nido’s tremendous defense has made him in my eyes the better catcher this season which is just unacceptable.
I personally didn’t know what to expect from McCann just because he only was successful as a full-time starter for one season but I certainly was expecting better production than the Mets have gotten.
It’s been so bad, Patrick Mazeika pinch hit for McCann in extra innings in a game the Mets absolutely had to have because they were facing a right-handed pitcher.
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If the Mets have any plans on competing in 2022, they need to get McCann back to his 2019 form or close to it. If this does not happen, Tomas Nido should get a majority of the playing time because if they get no offensive production whatsoever from the catcher position, I’d at least like to get elite defense.