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Friday, November 11, 2016

How does paying Brian McCann to play for another team help the Yankees?

Suddenly with the arrival of Gary Sanchez as a combination of Babe Ruth and Johnny Bench, Brian McCann is not only expendable but unacceptable.

McCann's home runs in his three years as the starting catcher for the Yankees: 23, 26, 20. McCann lost his starting job to Sanchez in early August. Sanchez went on to hit 20 homers.

In 2013 I opposed the Yankees signing McCann as a free agent in the weeks before they did. General manager Brian Cashman has made an astonishing array of mistakes in the last five years or so. The variety of his blunders is staggering. McCann was going to be 30 in his first Yankee season of 2014 and did not have enough plate appearances (PA) to qualify for leading in an average stat in his final two seasons with Atlanta. McCann was an aging catcher, a position where a player is often injured or needs to be rested to prevent injury.

Plus, the Yankees already had Sanchez. And Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy. Cervelli has been the starting catcher for Pittsburgh the last two seasons: OPS+ 103. Romine was McCann's backup in 2016. Murphy was traded for outfielder Aaron Hicks.

In other words the one position where the Yankees had depth, both on the team and in the minors was catcher. Yet, Cashman signed McCann to a five year contract at $17 million per year, even though Cashman expected/hoped that Sanchez would be ready to take over in year two or three of McCann's contract.

Now the Yankees are stuck. McCann must approve of any trade and must decide if he would rather accept the backup role with the Yankees or start with another team. Some thought that McCann could transfer to first base when Mark Teixeira was through. Teixeira is through but no one wants McCann to be the starting first baseman. McCann's OPS+ with the Yankees is 99. Not bad for a catcher but bad for a first baseman.

The problem is obvious. For another team to take the final two years of McCann's contract, the Yankees would have to pay a substantial amount of that. A substantial amount. Sometimes a team will do that but almost always if the player has become toxic. See Josh Hamilton. In other words it's worth it for the team to pay the player to go away.

But that is not the case with Brian McCann. Keeping him as the backup catcher would be the best thing for the Yankees and insurance against failure or injury to Sanchez. The Cubs just won the championship with 39 year old veteran catcher David Ross making substantial contributions: 209 PA, 109 OPS+; 7 PA, 1.429 OPS in World Series.

The Yankees would keep McCann if he were scheduled to make much less money. Maybe they'd even agree to paying him $5 million per year. But why would McCann agree to both a demotion and a huge pay cut? He wouldn't and shouldn't. The Yankees made a bad deal and now they're stuck with it.

Which brings us to the question posed in the title of this post. How does paying Brian McCann to play for another team help the Yankees? Trading McCann would be a bit of a salary dump. The Yankees would receive bad minor league players in return to establish a facade of the transaction being reasonable. But the bottom line is that the New York Yankees would be paying their starting catcher for the last three seasons to play for another team. How does that help the Yankees?

Brain Cashman, are you there? Care to enlighten us?

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