Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal announced that the Mets and free-agent catcher James McCann agreed on a 4-year deal worth 40M+. This was expected, as the two parties had been negotiating a four-year deal for the past couple of weeks. The Angels came in and looked like potential suitors, but it still felt as it was all but certain that McCann would sign with the Mets.
This obviously is a huge upgrade at catcher for the Mets, as Wilson Ramos was one of only two Mets starters in 2020 that had a WRC+ under 100. McCann took off offensively after joining the White Sox in 2019. Part of this is definitely due to being able to put the ball in play much more. His two highest batting averages, wOBA and BABIP came over the past two seasons. He hit .273 with a .333 wOBA and .359 BABIP in 2019, and .289 in 2020 with a .378 wOBA and .339 BABIP. Despite being relegated to a backup role in 2020, he still hit seven home runs (his career-high of 18 came in 2019) and posted what was by far his best WRC+ of 144. This can be contributed to increases in his line drive rate, hard-hit rate, and average exit velocity over the past two years.
Catcher has been arguably been the Mets’ weakest position over the past few years, especially defensively. This may be where McCann provides the biggest upgrade over Ramos. Defensive stats from 2020 should be taken with a huge grain of salt due to the limited number of games, but McCann had the DRS edge of 5 to -1 and had three more framing runs over Ramos. McCann had the edge in DRS in 2019 by 15 runs, and while he was a worse framer according to Fangraphs that year, it shows he got better. McCann is also known for his strong arm, which will help with the Mets pitching staff as they are generally a bit slow to the plate with their deliveries. Both catchers caught 17 base runners trying to steal in 2019, but Ramos allowed 94 stolen bases to McCann’s 37. Runners run on McCann much less, and this should ultimately help Mets pitchers.
There are two major implications from this acquisition, and more specifically the money associated with the deal. By not signing J.T Realmuto to a five or six-year deal worth over 20M a year, the Mets can go after George Springer, Trevor Bauer, or both. While Realmuto may be the best catcher in the game currently, McCann is fifth in WAR in the past two years (3.8) and actually has a higher WRC+ than J.T. Meanwhile, the upgrade that Springer or Bauer will provide will be a much bigger gap than J.T. over McCann. The second major implication is that it will allow the Mets to take their time fully developing their number two prospect, fellow catcher Francisco Alvarez. He is projected to be ready towards the end of this contract, in 2023. The Mets have their catcher until then, with the only question mark being whether McCann can produce at a high level for all these four years. Overall, it is a very good signing for the Mets.