James McCann has reportedly signed a 4-year deal with the Mets, joining Trevor May and Marcus Stroman as signees. The Mets are off to a hot start this offseason under Steve Cohen, and adding McCann strengthens it even more. This James McCann free agency signing means a lot of different things for New York. Possibly the most important being that Cohen knows how to spend his money strategically, which is relieving. Realmuto was available, but the Mets went with the cheaper alternative, which opens other spending options. This deal is an important one for the future of the Mets’ offseason, so let’s talk about it.
An Improving, All-Around Backstop
Not only is James McCann only in his age 30 season, but he is getting better. In his first four seasons in Detroit, he was well below average at the plate and behind the dish. Many experts believed Detroit only held on to him because of his explosive arm and potential. However, the catcher has truly started to grow into this expected potential. At the plate, McCann has developed into not only an above-average hitter but an all-star. If McCann had gotten to play a full season this past year, he would have been on pace to improve almost all his career-highs. Although the career stats don’t even compare, J.T. Realmuto had a worse year than James did this past season. The drastic improvement really makes the James McCann free agency signing look good for the Mets front office.
Defensively, McCann’s development has been just as surprising. Fangraphs, which is the leading stat collector in tracking catcher framing, has the backstop refining his skills in that part of the game just as much. (Fan Graphs) He was subpar for Detroit and Chicago his first five seasons, including his all-star campaign, but 2020 was different. Not only was his framing statistics above league average, so were the rest of his defensive stats. The Mets were desperately in need of not only a starting-caliber catcher but a stable and consistent one. McCann will fit this role beautifully, especially if his improvement continues and his steady performance ensues.
The expected details of McCann’s deal are 4 years and forty million dollars. This is a much different contract structure than the expected J.T. Realmuto deal. The Mets will save at least $10 million by passing on Realmuto, and McCann is no mediocre replacement. Bypassing on Realmuto’s hefty contract, Cohen will be able to target other max players such as George Springer and Trevor Bauer. Perhaps the Mets’ biggest concern would be enhancing their pitching, and so being held down by a massive contract will not bode well for New York’s future. Evidently, unloading sturdy amounts of money on a catcher has not worked out for the likes of the Joe Mauer-led-Twins. The James McCann free agency signing will allow the Mets to be flexible this offseason, which is necessary.
The Steve Cohen Takeover
Steve Cohen’s three major deals so far this free agency have been Marcus Stroman, Trevor May, and now James McCann. All three players will be instrumental in the Mets’ playoff chances, but they cannot stop there. The Braves are too talented to stop after three deals, and the Mets need to patch all their holes to overcome them. Luckily, Cohen has started off his first offseason strong and with the right moves. Just because he has the money to throw at guys, doesn’t mean he plans to waste it.
The Mets got their much-needed catcher, but now must target pitching. I expect the Mets to immediately put their money where their mouths are and target Trevor Bauer. However, I predict Bauer does what is anticipated and goes to the Angels. If that is the case, the Mets must target a second-tier starter. If the Mets plan to keep up with their subway rivals, then taking Tanaka or Paxton from them would help. And if these players yet again cannot be acquired, then Jake Odorizzi and Garrett Richards should be targeted.
J.T. Realmuto Rumors
I predicted the Mets to be the ones to pick up Realmuto a few weeks ago. With them now out of the question, it will be interesting to see where JT lands. I expect the Phillies to start to make their run at resigning the superstar catcher. I would say that they are the new favorites. However, the Nationals, Yankees, and Cardinals are not out of the question. I think that if the Yankees lose D.J. LeMahieu, then they immediately move up in the Realmuto rankings. For now, the Phillies are the front runners, but the Nationals may be close behind. The James McCann free agency signing should help Realmuto structure his deal to get him the most money. Teams should be more aggressive with Realmuto being the only capable catcher left, and that will help him get more money.
The James McCann free agency deal will help shape the rest of the signings that go on. Not only will Realmuto now see a larger deal than already expected, but so will other players. The Mets’ signing of McCann shows how serious they are to contend quickly. This may open the door for them to land another big free agent such as Springer. I don’t think they get Bauer, but Springer is not out of the question for New York. Free agency rumors are always changing, and each deal shapes how other teams attack their players.
Although my Realmuto prediction didn’t pan out, check out my other predictions here.
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