Friday, October 4, 2013
Underrated McCann's last game in Atlanta?
By David Schoenfield
ATLANTA -- Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann has been one of more underrappreciated players in recent years, a seven-time All-Star who has been a consistent run producer at the plate and a leader in the clubhouse. He's popular in Atlanta but his national attention has paled in comparison to, say, Yadier Molina, despite similar career WAR totals (26.8 for Molina, 23.5 for McCann).
McCann is a free agent, turns 30 in February, the Braves have Evan Gattis who can play behind the plate as well prospect Christian Bethancourt, a defensive whiz. Factor in that the Braves have a slew of young players due to soon get significant raises or long-term extensions -- Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel plus Mike Minor and Andrelton Simmons in a couple of years -- and speculation is that McCann may be allowed to leave. He made $12 million this year and would probably get a slight boost over that in the free agent market.
Which means, depending on what happens in this series, this could be his final game in Atlanta in a Braves uniform.
"When I think about it, it's definitely there," McCann said about that possibility before Game 2. "But at the same time ... what we're doing here today is way more important than what's going to happen to me after the season. I'm just focused on today's game. We've got to get the series 1-1 and go to L.A. and make this thing a series."
This is McCann's fourth time in the postseason, including last year's wild-card game; the Braves have yet to advance out of the Division Series.
"You don't get these chances very often, and when you do get them it's special. The feeling you get when you walk on the field for a postseason baseball game is like nothing you'll ever experience," he said.
One of the teams that could be interested in McCann is the Dodgers, whose catchers hit .236 (albeit with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs). McCann's left-handed pull swing would also fit in nicely in Yankee Stadium, with its short porch. The Phillies could be interested if they don't re-sign Carlos Ruiz and the Blue Jays may have tired of J.P. Arencibia's .227 OBP. Regardless, there will be a market for a catcher who can hit (McCann hit .256/.336/.461 with 20 home runs).
The Braves turn to Minor for Game 2 and McCann said after Game 1 that Minor wants the ball and he's confident the lefty will throw a gem. "The ball just didn't bounce our way last night," he said, "so we've got to regroup and come back out tonight and get 'em."
One thing for sure: He'll get a huge ovation from Braves fans.