Ever since Gary Sanchez burst onto the scene back in August, Brian McCann has been on the trade rumor mill. The Yankees catcher signed a five-year, $85 million deal with them prior to the 2014 campaign and has $34 million still guaranteed to him through 2018, plus a $15 million option that could vest for McCann depending on 2017-18 results.
Although McCann will be turning 33 in February, he is still a solid catcher despite the price. He reached the 20-homer plateau for the ninth consecutive season in 2016 and has a safely league-average bat with a 99 OPS+ since joining the Yankees. His defense carries plenty of respect, particularly his framing skills and his ability to call a game. Pitchers love throwing to him, and he has always been one of the most popular players in the clubhouse. He also gracefully handled the demotion to mostly DH duty after Sanchez’s surge, and has helped him adjust to the position at the major-league level, too. It wouldn’t even be the worst thing to still have him in 2017 in that role.
If Sanchez wasn’t around, the Yankees would probably be happy to keep McCann as their catcher. Unfortunately for him, Sanchez looks like the next coming of Jorge Posada without the defensive questions. Unsurprisingly, McCann’s original team, the Braves, is interested in bringing him back. Back in August, Jon Heyman floated a rumor about the Yankees asking for right-hander Mike Foltynewicz and outfielder Ender Inciarte in exchange for McCann.
This rumor has resurfaced a couple times since then, and now it’s back with new information from Braves beat writer Mark Bowman:
If the Yankees continue to demand Mike Foltynewicz or Ender Inciarte be included in any deal involving McCann, the Braves will look at more sensible options.
Rather than asking for both players, the Yankees are just looking for one of them to lead a McCann trade proposal, but the Braves still won’t budge.
Both of these players certainly carry some intrigue. Foltynewicz was a first-round draft pick by the Astros in 2010 before coming to Atlanta in the Evan Gattis deal prior to 2015. He was a top 100 prospect and just wrapped up a fine age-24 season, wherein he posted a 96 ERA+ and 111 strikeouts over 22 starts (123 1⁄3 innings). He’s not overwhelming, but he’s still young, and the Yankees need decent rotation options for the future.
Inciarte is the better player of the two, though he would be a bit of an odd fit on the Yankees. He has posted 12.7 WAR in just three major-league seasons between the Diamondbacks and Braves, earning praise for his outfield defense and his contact-focused approach at the plate (96 OPS+). Inciarte will turn 26 in a week and as a left-hander, it wouldn’t be a shock if his power went up a little bit in Yankee Stadium, too.
Inciarte would be a logical younger replacement for Brett Gardner if they’re planning on dealing him. If they don’t though, having three contact-focused outfielders with minimal power would be a little strange, especially with Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier knocking on the door. Inciarte is an underrated good player, though, so it could make sense anyway.
One important detail that is unclear is how much the Yankees are willing to pay of McCann’s remaining contract. If they’re being sticklers and refusing to pay much (if anything at all), then it will be tough to pry quality players. McCann is fine, but perhaps not $17 million per year fine, particularly for a smaller market team like the Braves. Regardless of who they are thinking of trading McCann to, the Yankees should at least consider using their financial might to pitch in and get a better return.
There’s a long off-season ahead, and McCann’s name will surely continue to swirl around in these rumors. Even if the two sides did have a deal, it wouldn’t be announced until early November, after the World Series. Whether or not that will actually happen though remains to be seen.