The Mets are closing in on a four-year deal worth around $40 million with catcher James McCann, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday:
Free-agent catcher James McCann closing in on four-year contract with Mets in $40M range, sources tell The Athletic. Talks are in final stages, deal will be pending physical.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 12, 2020
McCann, 30, is the first high-profile position player the Mets have added during what many expect to be a busy winter during Steve Cohen’s first offseason as principal owner. McCann is somewhat of a risky addition, as he’s only really had one successful season as a full-time starter, but the Mets are betting on the stellar skill set he’s displayed both in the batter’s box and behind the plate over two seasons with the White Sox.
While he’s always been considered an above-average defensive backstop, McCann was non-tendered by the Tigers in the winter of 2018 largely because of his inconsistency at the plate. Over five seasons in Detroit, he hit .240/.288/.366 in 1,658 plate appearances. He has always displayed decent power for a catcher, hitting 40 homers for the Tigers, including 12 in 2016 and 13 in 2017.
He took his game to the next level after signing with the White Sox prior to the 2019 season, though. He made his first All-Star team in his first season with the ChiSox, hitting .273/.328/.460 with 18 homers and a career-best 3.7 bWAR while developing a strong reputation with a young White Sox pitching staff.
With the uncertainty surrounding McCann’s breakout season as a 29-year-old and the fact that he only had one season remaining before hitting free agency, the White Sox went out and added the best catcher on the market last winter, signing Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal. That didn’t stop McCann from getting a solid chunk of playing time, though. With Grandal — whose defensive skills have been polarizing to say the least over the years — starting six games at first base and seven at DH, McCann played in 31 games (27 starts) and posted a career-best .289/.360/.536 slash line with seven homers in 111 plate appearances.
McCann figures to be the everyday starting catcher for the Mets, who also have Patrick Mazeika, Tomás Nido, and Ali Sánchez on their 40-man roster. He’ll be the latest player they’ll turn to in their seemingly endless search for a consistent, competent catcher. Since Hall of Famer Mike Piazza departed following the 2005 season, the Mets have been totally unable to find a long-term starting catcher, running through a long list of backstops that includes Paul lo Duca, Ramon Castro, Brian Schneider, Omir Santos, Rod Barajas, Josh Thole, John Buck, Rene Rivera, Devin Mesoraco, Kevin Plawecki, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wilson Ramos, among others. While lo Duca and d’Arnaud had brief flashes of success, the Mets are desperately hoping that McCann can produce at a more consistent level than any of their starting catchers over the last decade and a half.