James McCann could be an expensive backup catcher faster than planned

New York Yankees v New York Mets
New York Yankees v New York Mets / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

The rise of New York Mets prospect Francisco Alvarez can calm some fans from getting too scared of what the future holds for the catcher position. A top 100 prospect anywhere you look and a guy found in the teens or single-digits on many lists, he’s an exciting young man many are ready to shuttle up to the big leagues as soon as he’s ready.

Until then, the Mets will have to hope for the best from James McCann. Signed last winter to a four-year deal, he was brought in to help give the club some stability behind the plate. Two years of Wilson Ramos was enough for the club to go in a different direction and seek a guy with a good reputation as a defender.

McCann may have lived up to his end of the bargain behind it. At the plate, he had a horrendous year.

James McCann’s Mets contract will only get worse

Owed $8.15 million this coming season—matching last year’s total—McCann has a pair of $12.15 million paydays coming his way in 2023 and 2024. It’s not a franchise-handcuffing amount. The Mets are one of baseball’s few organizations that can get by with a potentially bad deal of this level without sweating.

Even if it doesn’t harm them fatally, McCann’s four-year deal is on track to only get worse because of the increase in pay. It’s looking like four years were a few too many. By the end of it, McCann might be the league’s most expensive backup catcher.

With an AAV of $10.15 million, McCann has the 99th highest salary in baseball right now. This doesn’t include arbitration players so he’s going to fall down the list. Among catchers with guaranteed deals, he’s only behind J.T. Realmuto, Salvador Perez, and Yasmani Grandal.

The $10 million per year catcher is rare in baseball. McCann hit free agency at a good time and coming off of two very good seasons offensively. Both the Mets and Philadelphia Phillies were in the market for a catcher. The Mets pounced early and went with McCann. The Phillies opted to pay Realmuto more than twice McCann’s AAV, keeping him on the club for several more seasons.

Many multi-year contracts, particularly the ones that go four years and bring a player into their mid-30s, end up looking bad at the end. This was probably always a thought with the Mets and McCann. They signed him to help the club immediately with the acceptance that maybe the last year will be a bit of a waste.

With Alvarez creeping closer to the big leagues and likely to get there sometime in 2023, McCann’s purpose in Queens is coming closer to its endgame. Before his contract is through, he could be pushed into a backup role where we hope he passes along a little guidance to the next in line. Perhaps we get lucky and those final years are remembered more as a reward for what he did prior.

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