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MLB Roundup 12/13: Mets sign James McCann

And one of the big catchers is off the board.

Chicago Cubs v Chicago White Sox Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Mets sign James McCann

It’s been a busy winter for the Mets, whose fans are about as happy as they’ve been in a very long time. It started with Steve Cohen purchasing the club, and they have been connected to some of the bigger names in free agency since that sale went through. They made their first relatively big signing of the Cohen era on Saturday, bringing in catcher James McCann for a four-year deal worth somewhere around $40 million.

It was clear that the Mets needed to pick up some catching help this winter, as Tomas Nido was their best backstop on the roster heading into the offseason. That’s not going to work. McCann isn’t the best catcher on the market — that distinction belongs to J.T. Realmuto — but he comes in at number two and is not a bad choice for New York provided they are still targeting big names in the outfield and/or rotation.

As for McCann himself, it’s a little bit of a gamble based on a relatively small sample size. The former White Sox and Tigers catcher had a couple of solid years under his belt before breaking out in 2019, finishing that year with a 109 wRC+. Last year, he topped that with a 144 mark. Keep in kind the league-average wRC+ for catchers the last two years have been 85 and 90, respectively. So, McCann has been significantly better than average. At the same time as this offensive explosion, he’s also greatly improved his pitch framing to come in as statistically one of the best in baseball last year. All that said, he only got 111 plate appearances in 2020, and struggled to the tune of an 83 wRC+ in the second half in 2019, so there’s an argument they are buying in on small sample success.

Ultimately, it seems like a risk that is worth it, which is not to say it will certainly work out, but there are positive signs. For one, even that rough second half was league-average for the position, and that’s the apparent downside of his game. Additionally, his Statcast metrics measuring how well he’s hit the ball suggest he has “earned” his numbers rather than lucking into them.

Then, there’s the Red Sox part in all of this. Admittedly, this move likely doesn’t affect them all that much in the grand picture of this winter. (If you want Mets-related news that ties back to Boston, they did hire former Red Sox front office member Jared Porter as their general manager on Saturday.) If you want to squint, though, you could look at this as being one catcher off the board, leaving teams more desperate for Realmuto. Obviously one one team can get him, so if that Christian Vázquez speculation from the summer was real, that could pick back up after Realmuto signs. I’m not expecting that, to be clear, but it’s worth keeping in mind.