Last season, the Yankees made the ill-fated decision to let Russell Martin leave as a free agent. Chris Stewart is a fine defensive catcher, but with Stewart batting more than 300 times, Yankees catchers hit a combined .213/.289/.298, finishing last in the majors with eight home runs and 43 RBIs and ranking 26th in OPS. For a franchise used to the stellar production of Jorge Posada for so long, it harkened back to the days of Bob Geren or Rick Cerone.
That's why the Yankees had to sign Brian McCann. They needed a catcher.
Whether the Yankees will actually be contenders in 2014 isn't an issue; the Yankees will always consider themselves contenders. There is no rebuilding in the Bronx. McCann's deal could be worth as much as $100 million, which may seem prohibitive for a catcher who will be 30 years old on Opening Day, but consider the positives he brings:
1. He's a catcher. The Yankees need one.
2. He brings left-handed power, having hit 20-plus home runs each of the past six seasons. His power stroke is also tailor-made for the short porch at Yankee Stadium -- see the graphic to the right.
3. He can DH when he's not catching and could eventually replace Mark Teixeira at first base when his contract expires after 2016. McCann's bat is good enough -- an above-average hitter every year of his career except 2012, when he played through a bad shoulder -- that he wouldn't be a liability at first base or DH.
4. He brings a quiet, fiery leadership that the Yankees could use right now. With Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retired and Derek Jeter soon to join them, it's time for a new generation of players to take over the top step of the dugout. The Rivera-Pettitte-Jeter way of doing things -- sort of a bland style of professionalism -- worked for many years, but McCann's in-your-face, play-the-game-the-right-way attitude brings a new type of energy to the club.
Yes, there is some risk here. McCann is 30 and has caught a lot of games. His offensive game has become somewhat one-dimensional as his doubles have declined from 42 in 2008 to just 13 in 2013. He can't run. His arm is average at best.
But he brings that home run power. With Teixeira and Curtis Granderson sidelined much of last season, Robinson Cano was the only lefty power hitter on the team in 2013, and the Yankees struggled to score runs. The Yankees have thrived in recent years in large part because of their left-handed power; you don't win at Yankee Stadium hitting singles.
Signing McCann also means the Yankees could forgo signing a DH -- think Carlos Beltran -- and use that extra money to sign a younger outfielder, maybe Shin-Soo Choo. McCann and Jeter can rotate through the DH position when they're not in the field.
Now, about bringing Cano back ...