By Sweeny Murti
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It's intriguing to see the Yankees strike relatively quickly on a big target like McCann. It usually takes until winter meetings time (Dec. 9-12) to get serious movement on the big free agents, but the Yankees were aggressive at the right time and landed their man.
Signing McCann to a five-year, $85 million deal shows that A.) the Yankees are still serious spenders despite all the talk of getting under the $189 million tax threshold, and B.) the Yankees know they have numerous holes to fill and the sooner they got at least one taken care of the better.
Power up the middle (catcher, shortstop, second base, center field) is a huge advantage in baseball because it's usually in short supply. The Yankees lost it in Granderson (even in the event that he comes back, he's a left fielder now) and they have added it back at catcher. McCann's 20-home-run power is projected by many around the game to become 25-30 as a lefty batter at Yankee Stadium.
If the Yankees bring back second baseman Robinson Cano, they will have legit home-run power at two of the harder positions on the diamond to find it.
McCann's contract (an average $17 million per year) might seem high, but consider that he is still 29 years old. The Yankees signed Jorge Posada to a four-year deal, $13 million per, at 36.
Did they overpay? Sure, but they had a hole to fill and they moved quickly. Pressure was likely coming from the deep pockets of the Red Sox and the Rangers, who I'm told had inquired about trading for McCann multiple times over the past two seasons.
McCann is said to be a good framer of pitches with an average throwing arm. And working with plenty of good pitchers in Atlanta, he certainly deserves some of the credit for their success.
By penciling in McCann at catcher for at least the next three years (before moving him to 1B and/or DH toward the end of his deal), the Yankees have bought themselves some time to see exactly what they have in young catching prospects Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez, and J.R. Murphy. Some of that depth could be traded now to fill a bigger need.
Sanchez has the greatest value. However, there are still some people I have spoken to around baseball who believe Sanchez will eventually be moved to the outfield to take advantage of his two best tools -- his throwing arm and power bat.
Mark Teixeira played with McCann in Atlanta in 2007 and 2008. I asked him about his former teammate during a conversation on Yankees Hot Stove on WFAN earlier this month.
Here's what Teixeira said at the time:
"Brian McCann is one of my favorite teammates of all-time ... great clubhouse guy, a natural pure hitter. ... I don't think he'd have any problem going to New York and some of the pressures that go with that," Teixeira said.
With their first big move out of the way, the Yankees are still engaged with several people in the outfield market, as our Jon Heyman has reported. While I believe Carlos Beltran is still the best fit (on a two- or three-year deal), everything still revolves around Cano. Whatever additions the Yankees make in the free agent market, I won't believe they have made themselves better if they don't bring back Cano.
The biggest fish in the free agent pool is still out there. Reel him in.
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