Last year, we waved a long goodbye to a certain Hall-of-Famer to be: Chipper Jones.
Either Tonight – or Wednesday if a miracle occurs – we could see the end of another great career in Atlanta: that of Brian McCann. [No, the series isn't over - clearly - but we do need to savor the last swings he'll take for us... for as long as it does last.]
Oh, Brian’s not done… far from it. But his days behind a tomahawk are likely done, as his free agent price tag will be upwards of $15m-$18m per year for 4 to 5 years. The Braves just don’t have a history of extending many contracts at all, much less those of catchers who will turn 30 the next time he reports to Spring Training (somewhere) with a new pitching staff. [See Lopez, Javy if you disagree.] As it is, he’s already on an extension deal: 7 years, $41.3m that worked well for the Braves. But alas, that deal is nearly done; it will officially expire just after the World Series ends.
He grew up here: Duluth High School – just north of town. He’s been with Atlanta since 2005. The accolades have piled up quickly:
- All-Star 7 years
- Silver Slugger award 5 times (surprising, given he’s in the same league that Yadier Molina belongs to)
- 29.4 total fWAR (38th all time as a catcher already)
- 176 homers, 661 RBI… heck, he’s got 23 sneaky steals.
- People complain about his durability, but he has the 3rd most innings catching since 2005 (A.J. Pierzinski, Molina).
- People complain about his defense, but clearly he’s worked hard on that over the years: single digit errors every year since 2010 (no more than 5, actually). Caught stealing rates increasing, plus multiple pitchers notorious for poor runner holding are gone.
Is Brian McCann a HOFer?
Not yet – still a lot of work to be done there. On that all-time catching WAR chart, Johnny Bench still leads the way (74.8). More recent names like Jorge Posada (16th), Joe Mauer (18th), Mike Piazza (6th), are on that chart ahead of him… heck, Javy Lopez is 33rd. He’ll probably need to be in that top 15 (45+ WAR) to have a shot. But the American League could give him that opportunity.
Ah, the American League: the league in which all good bats go to be preserved and extended. But this clearly makes the most sense for Brian – or any aging catcher with offensive abilities. There are teams already salivating at the chance to opening the bidding for his services:
- Texas. Having let Mike Napoli go to Boston, they picked up A.J. Pierzinski. This worked in spades for them, but he is nearly 37 years old.
- Boston. Nothing settled there since dumping Jason Varitek. And Jarrod Saltalamacchia still hasn’t quite been the answer for them.
- Yankees. Nothing settled there since Jorge Posada. They have obviously realized their error in letting Russell Martin go, too. Their roster problems run far deeper, though.
- LA Angels. Less of a player since Chris Iannetta is under contract through 2015. But he’s 30 years old, too. Funny that they’ve had a rough catching position (15 catchers since 2000) despite Mike Scioscia being the manager and having names like Mike Napoli and two different Molinas on the roster from time to time.
- ChiSox. They would have to overpay to get Brian… because they aren’t ready to win yet.
- Seattle. Will likely throw a pile of money in his direction. I expect he’ll have to block their calls.
National League teams will bid, too, but they’re already at a severe disadvantage before this frenzy even starts. So in handicapping the Brian McCann sweepstakes, I’ll go Texas – 40%, Boston 35%, Yankees 15%, Angels 5%, all others 5%.
Unfortunately, that leaves the Braves at perhaps 1% with the “others”, seeing as they only way it happens is if Brian decides that it is his desire to stay and finish up with his own home-town team…leaving probably $20-30m more on the table. I could see Frank Wren going $15m/3 years for him… but no more. And that’s just now going to do it.
The bright spots for Braves’ fans?
- Christian Bethancourt is actually looking like he could do the job – the glove has always been there, and the bat came around this year at AA. I can foresee a half-season at AAA, and then a possible call-up somewhere between the All-Star break and September 2014 if that’s confirmed next year.
- Evan Gattis has been one of the very few bright spots in this current playoff series: batting .500 with a .583 OBP. Even Brian – despite some good ABs and near homers – is still hitting .000.
- Frank Wren will extend Brian the token Qualifying Offer – clearly – and thus the Braves will be able to snag an extra after-the-first-round draft pick in 2014. In 2013, that pick was Jason Hursh.
So thank you, Brian: it will be a sad day in Atlanta – and throughout Braves’ country – when you walk away.
We wish you well.
9:37 EDT tonight… be there.