Brian McCann might not be the biggest name that the New York Yankees should sign this offseason, but he could very well end up be the most important.
That’s meant to be no slight to Robinson Cano, who is the top free agent of this year’s class and the guy who will more than likely be getting the biggest payday among his peers. As one of the game’s few all-world players and best second baseman, the head-turning sum that is due to the 31-year-old is well deserved; money, however, likely won’t make him the center of attention when it comes to this year’s free agency dealings.
And that’s good news for New York, really.
See, while signing Cano to a long-term contract is one of the things that’s highest on their to-do list over the next few months, the Bronx Bombers also happen to be one of the only teams in MLB who even has that item listed. In fact, you could make a pretty strong argument that the market for the second baseman is exactly one team, given the kind of money that he’ll command.
While it might be fun to think about the possibility of the Los Angeles Dodgers or Washington Nationals to come in and swoop up Cano from underneath the Yankees, the fact is that they are by far and away the front-runners for his services, and an unprecedented bidding war pushing the signing price to (or past) the $300 million that the perennial All-Star initially requested isn’t something that Brian Cashman and co. will be losing any sleep about.
The same, however, can’t be said about McCann, who won’t demand nearly the kind of money, making him a much more widely-coveted target precisely because he happens to be more attainable.
He is easily the best catcher in this free agent crop, and the Yankees are just one of a number of potential suitors who could be vying for his services, including the divisional rival Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers, among others. Texas is said to be the front-runner early in the race, but make no mistake about it: there’s a bidding war coming, and it’s very conceivable that the McCann market may continue to grow as their camp looks to leverage demand into a better deal.
Could the interest of other teams drive his eventual signing price up to nine figures as opposed to the eight-figure contract that most teams had him pegged for?
That seems conceivable (even if unlikely), but it’s not as though the Yankees have too many other options here. After getting a dismal 23rd-ranked 0.9 fWAR and a 26th-ranked .585 OPS out of the their catching corps in 2013, it’s clear that one of, if not the biggest hole in the team’s lineup going into 2014 is behind the plate.
It’s something that they’re obviously going to have to fix if they hope to get back to the postseason, and while it’s been suggested that the team could just wait it out by signing a short-term solution (Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Pierzynski) for a couple of seasons before going after Matt Wieters, that’d be taking on significant risk and uncertainty in a very important position, especially when there’s already a good longer-term solution who they know is available right now in McCann.
Losing out here could mean potentially having to overpay for a subpar option or face the worst-case scenario of going with the guys they had last season, which would be a bad idea even if Francisco Cervelli never broke his hand or got caught up in the Biogenesis scandal. New York needs a new start at backstop with a big name, and McCann is as good as fit as any.
They’ll need to pick up the tab on Cano too, of course, but they dictate the market there almost as much as the player does; the same thing certainly cannot be said about McCann and the Yankees’ catching situation, yes?