Today, the Chicago White Sox agreed to a four year, $73 million deal with catcher Yasmani Grandal, the largest deal in club history. But what happens now to incumbent catcher James McCann?
McCann, 29, joined the White Sox last season after spending his first five seasons with the Tigers and paid immediate for Chicago, making his first All-Star appearance in a breakout season where he owned a slash line of .273/.328/.460 with 18 home runs and 60 RBI. He is in his last season of arbitration and is due to make an estimated $5 million.
But along with owning better offensive numbers than McCann, Grandal is an upgrade behind the dish. McCann was one of the worst pitch framers in the league last season, which attributed to 16 additional runs scored by the opposition. Grandal, on the other hand, prevented opposing teams from scoring 13 runs with his pitch framing.
One option for McCann would be platooning him at first base and designated hitter with Jose Abreu, but perhaps the better option for the White Sox is to sell high on McCann while they can. The catcher market is pretty bare now that Grandal is off the market and a number of teams could use McCann’s services as a cheap, one-year rental. Colorado release Chris Ianetta last August and Tony Wolters has poor offensive numbers for someone who plays their home games at Coors Field. Jeff Mathis owned a horrific -1.6 WAR for the Rangers last season and the team could use a boost as they look to field a competitive team in their first season in the new ballpark. The Angels, who are heavily focused on acquiring Gerrit Cole at the moment, could non-tender Max Stassi, who is currently recovering from a hip surgery that could delay his 2020 debut and he hit poorly after the Angels acquired him last season. Cincinnati, who was connected to Grandal as free agency began, could seek McCann as a consolation prize.
The other obstacle the White Sox have to work around is the appearance that 2019 was a fluke for McCann. McCann tore the cover off the baseball to start the season, providing a .319/.376/.514 slash line but from July 1 on, his numbers crated to .231//.285/.410, which bears similarities to the numbers he put up in Detroit.
There is not a better time to sell McCann and the White Sox have made it clear he is not in their long-term plans. It’s time to trade him and get a lottery ticket back in the form of a prospect.