Brian McCann is introduced at a press conference Thursday, along with his manager Joe Girardi. Credit: Getty Images
The Yankees had some of the worst offensive production in baseball at the catcher spot last season so the timing of Brian McCann becoming a free agent could not have been better.
The pursuit began three weeks ago with McCann touring Yankee Stadium, meeting various members of the organization and hearing about playing in New York over a three-hour dinner.
The Yankees officially introduced McCann at a press conference on Thursday to announce he had signed a five-year contract worth $85 million, making him the highest-paid catcher in baseball.
“What it means to be a part of this organization — it means a lot, especially being a catcher, and all the tradition that's been in this organization,” McCann said. “I hope to fall in line with all the great catchers and continue to build and win championships. I think that's why I'm here. I'm going to be a piece of the puzzle that's going to help this team win championships.”
“It’s a pretty predictable move,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “I would think anybody who follows this game recognizes that the Yankees needed an upgrade at catcher, but this particular catcher offensively profiles for this ballpark — a left-handed [hitter] with fastball characteristics. So this a real perfect fit, so hopefully he’ll have a long productive career.”
The Yankees signed him after watching the combination of Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy bat .213 in 2013.
“He's an offensive catcher who really has the ability to work a pitching staff,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He's a complete catcher. He's a middle-of-the-order hitter. His power in this ballpark should work very well.”
McCann hit .277 in his career with the Braves, who made him their regular catcher in 2005. In Atlanta, McCann averaged 26 home runs and 97 RBIs per season, numbers that put him on par with the peak years of Jorge Posada.
“We’re hoping clearly that he can come over here and continue the type of production both on the offensive and defensive side that he provided in Atlanta,” Cashman said. “If he can continue to do that, you’re talking about a potential Hall of Famer.”
“I just want keep my head down and continue to play hard,” McCann said. “I had a really good career up until this point. I want to add on to what I've been able to accomplish and I want to win championships. I think this place allows me to do all those things.”
McCann wore No. 16 with the Braves, but that number is retired for Whitey Ford in New York. Instead he will wear No. 34, the same number close friends Eric O’Flaherty and Derek Lowe wore when they were his teammate.
McCann’s other connection to the Yankees before signing was being a teammate with Mark Teixeira from July 2007 to 2008. He said he picked Teixeira’s brain, and heard nothing but good things about the organization. The family atmosphere, along with the long-term financial investment, helped seal his arrival.
“Once I came up and visited it was a no-brainer for me,” McCann said.
McCann’s visit came after the Yankees made an offer over the phone. Cashman’s said the Yankees didn’t want to wait around and were ready to “rock and roll,” especially with several needs.
“This year we have to be active,” Cashman said. “We have a lot of needs to fill. So we have a important piece that we have added here but it cannot be the only piece. We have to add more pieces to put ourselves in a discussion for a team that people look at and say that’s a team that has a chance to make some noise for six months and hopefully October and we’re not there yet.”
Cashman visits Jay Z’s office, but nothing new on Cano
Cashman said he visited Jay Z’s offices in downtown Manhattan and drew laughs when he said it was a “nice office.”
The seriousness though involves another gaping hole in the Yankee lineup that Cashman will have to fill if Cano elects to leave as a free agency.
As of Thursday afternoon, there was nothing new to report other than that talks are still ongoing, though ESPN Deportes reported Cano visited Seattle and they have an offer of 10 years and $240 million.
“We’re still talking,” managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. “Nobody’s given up. We’re still talking. Obviously we’re a decent distance apart so we’re just going to have to wait and see. That’s all we can do.”
If the Yankees don’t raise their offer to him, they hope Cano’s camp at least comes back to them and gives them a final chance.
“I would hope that would be the case,” Steinbrenner said. “I would hope given the history, given that he came up through this organization, that would be the case. These are good guys that he's got. I would think so and hope so.”
Still, the Yankees do not want to wait all winter for Cano, so they can move forward without him if he decides to leave.
“We’re not waiting for Robbie,” Cashman said. “And Robbie is not waiting for us. We’re out trying to sign players. We’ve been trying to sign him, as well.”