The St. Louis Cardinals signed Yadier Molina to a five year extension worth between $70-$75 million a couple days ago. Molina is a solid defensive catcher. He is one of the game’s best catchers in throwing out runners trying to advance on steal attempts. He is coming off his best offensive season that saw him hit .305/.349/.465 with 14 home runs and a WAR of 3.9 according to baseball reference. Overall, he is a .274/.331/.377 hitter. He has only had a WAR of 2.5 or higher three times and each time was in the last three years.
The Atlanta Braves, on the other hand, have the luxury of having one of the game’s best offensive and all-around catchers in the game. Brian McCann is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, though there is an option for next season, which it may is safe to say it will be picked up.
What the contract extension that Molina signed with the Cardinals means for McCann and Braves is that McCann’s price went up with that extension.
There are two salaries to consider when it comes to thinking about Brian McCann. Joe Mauer currently holds the record for most money paid to a catcher at $23 million per season. He signed a 8 year, $184 million contract before the 2010 season. Molina’s salary will be between $14-15 million per season.
The issue that the Atlanta Braves face is that McCann is a better catcher than both Mauer and Molina. Defensively, McCann isn’t as good, but offensively, he has established himself as the most consistent catcher in the MLB.
Excluding his rookie season, when he had 204 plate appearances, McCann has totaled a WAR of 19.5 over the past 6 seasons. He was on pace to set a personal best this past year until straining his oblique. He posted his 2nd worst WAR in his career with a 2.5.
The issue that the Braves face is that he will demand a large salary and he is aging. He will be 29 after 2013′s season. The Braves need his offensive production. He has been one of their most consistent and solid offensive players for the past 6 years. He has become the face of the franchise and he is an unmatched leader.
McCann would be suited best for an AL team as he ages. His bat is invaluable, but the rigors of being behind the plate for 130+ games is daunting.
If McCann hits the open market, the Braves will not be able to afford him. He could get a huge payday from a number of teams. Most teams would line up for his services.
The Braves cannot afford to let him go, can they?
They cannot afford to lose his production in the lineup. They have a prospect that is making serious progress, but seems to be at least 2-3 years away. Do they want to block Christian Bethancourt‘s path to the MLB with an aging McCann? Can they take the gamble of putting the job in Bethancourt’s hands at the expense of letting McCann walk?
It isn’t an easy decision. Frank Wren and the Braves’ front office have a huge decision to make over the next 18-24 months.
For an interesting read on what it may take to sign McCann, read Captitol Avenue‘s take on it.
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