The development that most Braves’ fans were expecting to hit the newswire came to fruition on Saturday afternoon, as it was announced that longtime Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann had agreed to terms on a 5-year, $85 million deal with the New York Yankees. The deal also includes a vesting option for a sixth year that would push the contract’s value to $100 million.
McCann, now twenty-nine years old, will seemingly be a stranger in a new land in 2014, considering the fact that the Duluth High School product has played all nine of his seasons in Major League Baseball with the Braves. McCann took Braves country by force back in 2005, stepping up to serve as John Smoltz’s personal catcher before developing to the point where the team trusted him to play the position full-time. McCann took the opportunity and never looked back to the tune of 1,070 hits, 176 home runs, 661 RBIs, 7 All-Star appearances, and the 2010 All-Star game MVP award.
Going into the 2013 season, it appeared that the Braves would work towards a deal with the hometown kid, but Evan Gattis’ play completely changed the team’s strategy. A former standout high school baseball player in Texas, “El Oso Blanco” took the NL East by storm, finishing the season with a .243 batting average, 21 home runs, and 65 RBIs, leaving the fans clamoring for more from the rookie, who also shares the title of the feel-good story of the year. With a younger catcher already in the fold, the Braves felt no need to pay McCann for a max contract, instead giving him a one-year, $14 million offer that he eventually–and predictably–declined. While this offer was not enough to keep McCann in Atlanta, it does guarantee that the Braves will receive a compensatory pick from the Yankees between the first and second rounds in the June draft in 2014.
The signing of McCann filled a tremendous hole for the Yankees, who were plagued by bad play in front of the backstop last season, shown by the catchers from 2013 combining for 8 home runs, 43 RBIs and a WAR of 0.2. By comparison, McCann produced 20 home runs, 57 RBIs, and a WAR of 2.7 in 102 games, which makes the Yankees’ decision to offer McCann such a lucrative contract completely understandable.
What does McCann’s exit mean for the Atlanta Braves? The obvious statement is that the fan favorite has left the building, as well as a hitter that could be relied upon no matter what situation he stepped into. This decision by Atlanta also shows the team is fully confident with Evan Gattis in terms of both batting and defensively; thankfully, his days of playing left field should now be behind him.
The Braves will certainly be in uncharted territory in 2014 now that both McCann and Tim Hudson are playing elsewhere , but at this point will the team look to sign any notable free agents? Right now these rumors around the team’s next big move have been non-existent and focused solely on trade talk, of which nothing has come as of Sunday morning. It is unclear how soon general manager Frank Wren will make a move to help his team, but I have a feeling that once Wren makes a phone call, the result will be a trade that bolsters Atlanta’s starting rotation considerably.