The Yankees traded catcher Brian McCann to the Houston Astros in a relatively quiet move. Brian Cashman will acquire two more prospects in right-handers Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, while shedding some extra payroll on top of that. Now that McCann is gone, it’s time to see how his absence affects the roster from this point on.
It’s entirely clear now that this is Gary Sanchez’s team. Sanchez will be the team’s starting catcher next year and should be able to give the Yankees some much needed youthful pop. He unofficially took over the job in August when he was initially called up. A lost season seemed like the perfect time to break in a rookie, but it wasn’t clear how permanent the move would be. The two could have seemingly shared duties behind the plate and at DH, however, sticking with the theme over the last few months, the Yankees seem comfortable embracing the future.
Essentially, Sanchez not only played McCann out of a job, he also pushed him off the team. After the trade deadline, the veteran was the team’s catcher in just 12 of his final 47 games with the Yankees. As a designated hitter, he mustered only a .255/.333/.383 batting line with five home runs. Decent for a catcher, but pretty disappointing for a DH. Sanchez, meanwhile, went on to hit .299/.376/.657 with 20 home runs over 53 games. He just missed winning the AL Rookie of the Year, and almost singlehandedly changed the narrative surrounding the 2016 season. It was clear that it was time to move on. After years of expectations, Gary finally made his much-anticipated arrival. Prodigal son came home, and Sanchez didn’t disappoint.
This has multiple repercussions on the roster. It likely means that Austin Romine is safe for now. He is out of options, so if the Yankees were to have kept both Sanchez and McCann, Romine would likely be out of luck. He would have to make it through waivers to go back down to Triple-A, and in this market, that seemed unlikely. Now there’s no reason to worry about that. Romine will head into spring training as the backup, while Kyle Higashioka remains on the 40-man roster and gets a chance to impress before he’s called upon. The road to the show just got a little bit easier for him.
It also affects what the Yankees do on the open market. McCann is owed $34 million over the next two seasons, but the Astros are taking on most of that deal with the Yankees eating $5.5 million a year. This means that the team’s current $159 million payroll will now fall closer to $147 million. Mark Teixeira, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Aroldis Chapman all being gone gives them a lot of room to play with. If they are going to use this money for anything, it should be pitching, but there is also a need for them to add a legitimate designated hitter.
Look around the roster, do you see someone who could regularly DH? Unless they decide that Aaron Judge is the guy, and I don’t think he should be, they will need to add someone who can hit. The Yankees have expressed interest in reuniting with Beltran. Someone like Mike Napoli also exists. Then there are Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion, who will get big free agent money. After trading away McCann, they need to prioritize pitching, preferably starting pitching, and if they have anything left over at the end (you know Hal Steinbrenner is sniffing $189 million) then they can go after a DH.
While he was here, Brian McCann received a lot of criticism for his batting average and for his inability to go the other way against the shift. Despite the disappointment, he gave the Yankees some solid power production, which they gladly took for three years before dumping him at just the right moment. What was most telling about the changing of the times was that his abilities behind the plate were clearly eroding, and despite his reputation, Sanchez looked like a better catcher. McCann did a decent job holding the position down, but now it’s Gary’s time to shine