The Mets are discussing catcher James McCann in trades, reports Andy Martino of SNY. No specific clubs are mentioned as having interest and it doesn’t appear anything is close, but the discussions are notable nonetheless.
Going into yesterday, the club already had three catchers on their 40-man roster going into yesterday, with McCann joined by Tomas Nido and Francisco Álvarez. Last night, the club agreed to terms with Omar Narváez, adding a fourth catcher into the mix. That created immediate speculation that the club would look to move one of their other receivers, with McCann a fairly logical choice.
McCann, 33 in June, had a strong two-year run with the White Sox over 2019 and 2020, hitting .276/.334/.474 for a wRC+ of 114. He parlayed that into a four-year, $40.6MM deal with the Mets, but has taken a dip since then. He hit .232/.294/.349 in 2021 for a wRC+ of 80 and then dipped further to .195/.257/.282 this year for a wRC+ of 59. He also made multiple trips to the IL and only got into 61 games. Defensively, he’s been a bit below average in his Mets tenure, posting a -3 Defensive Runs Saved and a -0.8 from FanGraphs’ framing metric.
McCann’s deal was slightly backloaded, as he got a $600K signing bonus followed by salaries of $8MM in the first two seasons followed by $12MM in each of the two seasons to come. That leaves two years and $24MM still to be paid out. Given his underperformance, it makes sense for the club to see if any team is willing to take it off their hands.
They don’t really need the cost savings, since money seems to be no object under owner Steve Cohen. Roster Resource pegs their current payroll at $344MM with a competitive balance tax figure of $356MM. That’s miles beyond the top luxury tax tier of $293MM. Since the club is a second-time payor, they’ll pay a 90% tax on any spending beyond that $293MM figure. Given that obvious willingness to spend, they don’t need to pinch pennies by shedding McCann’s contract, but it’s worth pointing out that those high taxes mean shedding a contract would come with double savings. McCann’s contract comes with an annual CBT hit of $10.15MM, since it’s based on the average annual value of the deal. A 90% tax on that means $9.135MM, so moving McCann and and his $12MM salary would actually save the Mets almost $20MM.
Regardless, it’s unlikely that any club would want to take on that salary in full, given his disappointing performance over the past two seasons. The catching market no longer has the most exciting free agents like Willson Contreras, Christian Vázquez and others, but there are still a few names left. Teams like the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Astros, Giants, Pirates, Padres, Tigers, Rays, Angels, Marlins and Red Sox either have reported interest in catching upgrades or make sense for one. They might look into McCann but they could also just sign someone like Gary Sánchez, Roberto Pérez or Tucker Barnhart. Those players would likely be limited to one-year deals at significantly lower salary than what McCann is set to make.
If the Mets are truly motivated to get McCann out of the way, they would likely have to include something else in the deal or just eat a portion of his salary. Álvarez is one of the most highly-regarded prospects in the game but is considered a bat-first catcher at this point. It’s possible the club could carry three catchers with Álvarez frequently slotting in as the designated hitter. However, four catchers seems rather untenable, meaning that McCann and Nido will likely see their names in trade rumors until a deal comes together.
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