With the emergence of young phenom Gary Sanchez the Yankees have created a 17 million dollar problem. Brian McCann lost his starting role behind the plate this season. Not due in large part to his performance, but rather the record breaking rookie season Gary Sanchez put together.
Yankee fans all across the globe are embracing the youth movement, and are ready to take salary off the books. While moving McCann may seem like a great move, it actually might not.
Let’s face it: McCann has not been what the Yankees hoped he would be. He has hit just .232, .232, and .242 in his first three seasons in pinstripes. The shift has killed him and he has struggled to adapt ever since coming to New York.
We all know that Brian McCann is a great teammate. He is a solid veteran presence in the clubhouse and he handled the Gary Sanchez situation with true class and Yankee spirit. He was also able to hit his twentieth homerun for the ninth consecutive season.
Rumors swirled around the league that the Braves wanted McCann to come back. The first problem with trading McCann is that you will only get salary relief. Arguably, you won’t even get that much considering his contract. He is now 32 years old and has struggled to be consistent at the plate.
The Yankees will enter next season with a true problem; there is no proven left handed power hitters in the line up. Sure, Greg Bird is coming back, but he is coming back from labrum surgery. By holding onto McCann you can continue to make your bench more versatile. Consider that this season the Yankees had Alex Rodriguez clog up a short bench. Between A-Rod and your back up catcher (Austin Romine) they held two positions that the Yankees had no versatility with. That left the Yankee bench with just Aaron Hicks and Ronald Torreyes. Hicks was ineffective and Torreyes didn’t get much playing time, but it limited Girardi’s options on the bench. By holding onto Brian McCann next season he can fill three positions for you. He can be a full time DH, back up catcher, and an emergency option for Greg Bird at first base. This already gives you far more versatility then what you had in the season prior.
With all this in mind though, versatility is great, but what is versatility with no true production? The Yankees struggled to put up runs, so by keeping McCann you aren’t bettering your offense in anyway; however, that might not be the case. When Gary Sanchez took over McCann’s position people forgot about McCann. Fans marveled at the monster home runs Sanchez hit, and they just continuously came one after another. Meanwhile, McCann was putting together a solid season in the DH role. After Sanchez took over behind the plate McCann hit .274 with a .361 OBP, 3 HR, and 15 RBI. He also had his only stolen base while DHing for any of those at home wondering, but seriously the production McCann had when he wasn’t behind the plate was much better than prior in the season.
They say that catchers have ten good years behind the plate before they need to go to another position. Next year will be McCann’s thirteenth year in the bigs. He spent all of those years behind the plate. Going into his 13th season he could possibly provide the Yankees with a solid season from their DH role that they didn’t get this season.
Furthermore, don’t forget the importance that though Sanchez had an unbelievable season and he looks like a no doubt super star, but he has only played in 53 games. Not to take anything away from a player who had arguably the greatest 53 game stretch for any rookie in the history of baseball, and someone I also believe is the rookie of the year. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. If the Yankees look to continue to compete through a re-build it is necessary to keep McCann on the roster.
Lastly, let’s not downplay McCann’s role in the lockeroom, and as a mentor to Gary Sanchez. Catchers are among the smartest players in the majors. They’re often the captain of the defense to keep everything in check. It is also by far the toughest position to play. McCann could give Sanchez a solid back up and he can truly help the Yankees compete in 2017.