As I sit back in the refractory period of the first White Sox no-hitter since a guy named Philip Humber threw one in the pacific northwest in the spring of 2012 (the FromThe108 blog did not exist back then), I wonder if it is too soon to explore this topic. After all, as much press as Lucas Giolito has gotten for stringing together 27 outs without allowing a hit, his battery mate James McCann has received nearly as much credit for being the brains (and let’s face it, the beauty) behind the operation. Even the White Sox broadcast can’t stop talking about the chumminess between these two colleagues. So, my plan with this blog is to avoid the anecdotal reasons to bring James McCann back.
1 – LUCAS GIOLITO LOVES HIM AND THEY WORK GREAT TOGETHER
2 – HE’S A GOOD CLUBHOUSE GUY
3 – HANDS DOWN ONE OF THE MOST HANDSOME MEN TO WEAR A WHITE SOX UNI IN A DECADE
Nope. I want to take a look at some other factors….We all know Yasmani Grandal was signed to be the #1 catcher and having a James McCann was a “luxury”, but that was when we were sold on the White Sox rebuild, now we are supposed to be a good team, so the first question is……
DO GOOD TEAMS ROUTINELY HAVE A QUALITY SECOND CATCHER?
I took a quick look at the five teams that made the playoffs in the AL in 2019, and ran an average of their number 2 catcher’s by fWAR and got that the average second catcher for an AL playoff team in 2019 played 75 games, logged 249 plate appearances and accrued 0.7 fWAR. That’s a substantial contribution. Below are the top 25 catchers in the AL (with a minimum of 100 plate appearances) and as you can see, 0.7 fWAR is nothing to sneeze at, and this list gets quickly into negative town and I don’t think a playoff contending White Sox team wants that shit.
Even ratcheting down McCann 2019 games from 118 to the aforementioned 75 games for a 2nd catcher, he’d still log you ~1.5 fWAR (assuming he’d earn his fWAR in a linear, pro-rata fashion), very good!! In 2020, he’s crushing that pace already accruing 0.7 fWAR in 15 games, which implies that even more careful and specific use of McCann enhances his value.
CAN WE EASILY REPLACE HIS VALUE TO THE 2020 TEAM FOR THE 2021 TEAM??
I’ve written long form how I really want and think that the White Sox need Zack Collins to succeed. Also, I and most of White Sox twitter have already pledged our undying allegiance to Yermin Mercedes, but I think, given the limited experience of both (they have a combined 11 starts behind the dish in the majors, all by Collins and to top that off, Mercedes has just a single PA in the show), I’d have to say no. If 2021 was a season where the White Sox were expecting to be an up and coming team, then maybe you could gamble with this lack of experience as your #2 catcher, but I don’t see that as a reasonable risk, especially if Yasmani Grandal were to miss any time in 2021.
What about free agents? Here’s the list of free agent catchers.
Obviously, JT Realmuto is gonna get paid. The rest of the list has their various share of warts, but mostly age and being NOT GOOD. It is possible there is back-up catcher gold to pan from this list or from some minor acquisition that Rick Hahn is already pretty horned up about, but for us average fans, I’m not really seeing a whole hell of a lot in this list that will swaddle my scared White Sox fandom on Yasmani Grandal rest days or god forbid he has to miss a month of action.
WILL THE WHITE SOX WANT TO AFFORD JAMES MCCANN?
Notice the phrasing above, of course the White Sox can afford to re-sign James McCann, the question is, will they choose to……Below is a list of the 2019 free agent catcher signings of note.
A couple of weeks ago, we actually fielded this question in the #SundaySoak and Chorizy-E felt that the White Sox could get ahead of McCann’s free agency by offering him a contract with a perpetual option. I sort of felt that McCann was taking a bite at the final substantial contract apple of his career. Based on the list above I believe it even more. Do I think he’s going to get Grandal money, surely fucking not, the White Sox were a team in need of those very specific skills and Grandal had been proving his worth for a half decade. McCann has a year and a month of his very impressive current level of play. However, I’d be shocked if McCann didn’t at least garner a contract of the Travis D’Arnaud level noted above. His 2019 was substantially better AND he’s building on it with a very strong 2020.
Now, I know the owners are going to poo-poo free agent contracts next off-season because they can (and possibly need to, but without audited financials, I’ll never know), but let’s just take a stand on what we think a James McCann might get. I think he’s better than D’Arnaud, but similar age and I also think he’ll want as much guaranteed money as possible (assuming he’s still a decent player at the end of this contract, it’ll likely be one year deals after that). Let’s say……. 3 YR – $27M. This is a total guess, maybe he wallops this deal or maybe owners cry poor and he ends up with a 1 yr $10M, I don’t know, but 3 YR $27M seems close enough…..Now do the White Sox….
YIKES!!! The White Sox are high up this list already, I can hear Jerry reaching for the Rolaids. However, this is slightly misleading, as those payroll obligations exclude min salaries and arb raises (HI LUCAS!) for 2021…lmfao!! It also includes a $12M E5 club option (no thanks), a $7M Gio Gonzalez club options (no thanks) and a $6.75M Steve Cishek club option (no thanks). So will they want to afford it…..maybe?
What would you do? If it were me, I would attempt to re-sign McCann, I know this team needs a RF and I know they still need starting pitching, but I feel this money would be much better spent on McCann than the next Kelvin Herrera they try and trot through the door.
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