Last winter the Yankees decided to purposely downgrade from Russell Martin to the Chrisco Stewvelli (A mix of Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart) tandem. Unsurprisingly, that move backfired in a big way. Cervelli started off well, but suffered a season-ending broken right hand in late April. Stewart, who took over primary catching duties, was predictably terrible, and Austin Romine, outside of a few good weeks at the plate, was pretty underwhelming as well. Thankfully, the Yankees have a chance this winter to fill their catcher black hole with one of the best: Brian McCann.
Calling McCann one of the best behind the plate is not hyperbole. Since he entered the league in 2005, he has been just that, hitting .277/.350/.473 in over 4300 plate appearances. His 29.4 fWAR since '05 is ahead of Yadier Molina's 28.4 mark, and only trails Joe Mauer's 42.8 fWAR among catchers. His 117 wRC+ ranks seventh in that same span, though if you take out Jorge Posada (who is obviously retired), Mike Napoli, and Victor Martinez (who aren't catchers anymore), he ranks fourth.
Over the last couple of years, however, McCann hasn't been quite the same, but still pretty good nonetheless. Since the start of the 2012 season, McCann has hit .242/.316/.426 in nearly 900 PA's. His 103 wRC+ and 4.5 fWAR rank 12th and 13th among catchers, respectively. This year he hit .256/.336/.461 in just over 400 PA's. His 122 wRC+ and 2.7 fWAR rank sixth and 11th, respectively. Although those aren't super-elite numbers when compared to his peers at the same position, they're still pretty impressive, and they're far better than what the Yankees received in 2013 by a landslide.
Perhaps a reason for McCann's decline over the last couple years can be attributed to injury. He played 120 games in 2012, but he did so with a shoulder injury. He missed a few games here and there last season and posted a career-worst .230/.300/.399 (87 wRC+) line, but he ended up needing surgery on his right shoulder after the season concluded. "Right" being significant because, as a left-handed batter, an injury like that can really affect your production at the plate, and it appeared to have done so. After having surgery last October, McCann missed the first 30 games of 2013, but, as noted earlier, bounced back after his horrible 2012. Hopefully he put his shoulder troubles behind him for good.
Obviously when McCann hits the open market (and there's a very, very good chance he'll indeed hit free agency) he'll be the best available catcher by a lot. Yeah, there's Carlos Ruiz and A.J Pierzynski, but they're both in their mid-late 30's. McCann, while not a spring chicken at 30 years of age, still figures to have at least a couple more very good seasons left in him. As for what kind of contract he could fetch, Yadier Molina signed a five-year, $75 million contract extension with the Cardinals in March of 2012. Since he'll be reaching the open market, I'd have to think McCann would get at least that, if not more. Maybe six years, $90MM? The average annual value of both of those deals is $15MM, so maybe he could get something between $16-$19MM in terms of AAV. I don't know, that's mostly just guessing on my part. Anyway, McCann will also surely be given the qualifying offer from the Braves, which means the Yankees would have to forfeit their first-round pick to sign him, but that shouldn't be a problem. You give up your pick to sign someone like McCann. No doubt.
With all this said, I feel it's pretty unlikely, though not impossible, that the Yankees sign McCann this winter. Plan 189 certainly plays a role into that, but also the catchers the team currently sports may also play apart of the equation. Austin Romine could be given the chance to be the regular catcher next year, and the Yankees seem to really like J.R. Murphy, who is knocking on the door to a regular spot in the majors himself. At the same time, this is something I feel the Yankees shouldn't pass up if the team feels they can be "championship caliber" like their owner seems to think they can be. Adding Brian McCann would certainly go a long way into getting the Yankees back to an elite level in 2014.