Brian McCann is coming off of his worst season, and it may cost his a ton of money going forward. McCann has a $12 million club option for 2013 that appeared to be a no-brainer a year ago, but there was quite a bit of public discussion about the Braves declining the option.
In 2012 McCann hit .230 with an OBP of .300 and slugged a Belliardian .399. (Okay, it wasn’t Belliard bad, but you get the point.) It appears that the shoulder injury McCann played through for most of the season is the main culprit, but you have to also consider that McCann just finished his eighth season at the big league level at the most demanding position in sports, and he may be starting the back half of his career.
On October 16, 2012, McCann underwent surgery to fix a torn labrum, which of course was torn more that previously indicated. At first the typical Braves spin was “He will be ready by March 1!” But now it is looking like it may be at least a six month recovery, which would put him probably around May or June before he is ready to go.
As of now, David Ross is a free agent and you have to wonder if he can be a fulltime player at this point. It is not clear that Evan Gattis or Christian Bethancourt are ready to make the jump to the big leagues. So for the first few months of the season the Braves will be without their cleanup hitter who, when healthy, is also arguably their best player.
By picking up McCann’s option, the Braves have put off a difficult decision for at least a few more months. But you have to wonder, going forward, if the Braves will attempt to sign McCann to a multi-year deal. Or will they let him walk?
There are two ways to view this. Now that Chipper is gone, McCann is the face of the franchise, and the team’s most popular player. He is the clubhouse leader and a local product. However, the last year and a half has seen McCann’s numbers drop. While he has been banged up, all those innings behind the plate are starting to add up. It would have been nice if Corky Miller could have spelled McCann better early in his career, not that I am bitter or anything.
If I am the Braves, I consider going to McCann and trying to work out a three to five year deal at a discounted rate. McCann’s value is at an all time low and he knows that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
I still think McCann can be a great player and probably has a few years left. However, I wouldn’t invest a ton of money in him at this point. If McCann wants Molina money (5 year-$75 million), I think you have to wish him well.
A third option that may be looming is a scenario where one of Gattis or Bethancourt wins the job and lights it up. At that point, McCann may be expendable and there are a lot of teams that could give up a few decent players for him.
It would be very similar to the Dale Murphy trade in 1990. The club has a young promising bat without a position (back then, it was David Justice), and there is a veteran player on the backside of his career, who is also the most popular player on the team. The main difference is that the present day Braves are expected to contend for a playoff spot, and veteran leadership is important.
In the end, I predict the Braves will sign McCann for a three year incentive-loaded deal with a mutual option for a fourth year. But the money will have to start closer to $10 million a year, rather than the $15 Molina is making.