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Brian McCann still has value on a Yankees team in the midst of a youth movement

Even with Gary Sanchez cemented as the Yankees’ starting catcher, McCann has much he can contribute to the team beyond this season.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last week Joe Girardi announced that Gary Sanchez would be the team’s everyday catcher moving forward. Since his call-up, Sanchez has been nothing short of spectacular, both at the plate and behind the dish. His play has left no doubt that he is the catcher of the Yankees’ present and future. As a result, Girardi’s announcement garnered little reaction from Yankees’ observers and the team itself, despite the fact that it meant displacing Brian McCann as the starting catcher in the midst of a solid 2016 campaign.

Prior to Girardi’s announcement, McCann cleared waivers, which made him eligible to be traded this August. Since clearing waivers, there has been considerable speculation that McCann will be dealt. Atlanta, where McCann rose to prominence as a six time All-Star in his first nine MLB seasons, is thought to be in need of a veteran catcher to help guide a very young team. Cleveland is another destination in need of catching help, particularly after they lost out to the Texas Rangers in the Jonathan Lucroy sweepstakes at the trade deadline. Hal Steinbrenner even commented on the possibility of moving McCann at last week’s owners meetings in Houston, suggesting that a deal was more likely this winter than during the season.

For all the trade speculation surrounding McCann in light of his demotion from the starting catcher’s role, the Yankees should seriously consider keeping him in the fold for 2017. For one thing, while the Yankees have high hopes for the return of Greg Bird in 2017, a 2017 roster without McCann lacks left-handed power. And while McCann is not having his best offensive season, he is still likely to equal or surpass 20 home runs for the ninth consecutive season. Keeping McCann would provide the team with a more balanced lineup, particularly in light of the impending retirement of Mark Teixeira, who has provided the Yankees with considerable extra-base hit potential from the left side of the plate since 2009.

Second, the Yankees like Atlanta could benefit from McCann’s presence as a leader and mentor to the team’s younger players. With Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez gone, CC Sabathia in decline and entering the final year of his contract, and Brett Gardner an even more likely trade candidate due to the Yankees’ crowded outfield at the Major League and Triple-A levels, the team will be short on veterans to help smooth the transition to the next generation of Yankees. The importance of this role should not be underestimated given the pressures of playing in New York, and that expectations are likely to be sky-high for the Baby Bombers entering 2017.

Third, while McCann positionally would largely be utilized as the team’s designated hitter, he can still catch, and has appeared in 29 games as a first baseman in his career. Carrying McCann does not pose the same challenges that the Yankees confronted this year with Rodriguez, or that a team like the Red Sox confronts with David Ortiz. McCann is still capable of playing the field, which is a nice bonus since his primary responsibilities in 2017 would be to take advantage of the short-porch in right field while providing veteran leadership.

When the Yankees signed McCann prior to the 2014 season, this scenario was envisioned by Brian Cashman and the front office. McCann could provide a bridge to Sanchez, and then slot in to the DH role after Rodriguez departs. There is no reason to abandon this plan prematurely.

However, McCann as a solid catcher with pop still left in his bat is a valuable asset, and Cashman has done an incredible job this season realizing significant returns on the trade market. With a weak free agent class this offseason, if Cashman can deliver more of his magic by trading McCann, he should do so. But make no mistake, trading McCann would be a loss for the Yankees in 2017, and any trade haul should reflect the considerable value that McCann has to next year’s team.