The New York Yankees continued to get younger Thursday by trading veteran catcher Brian McCann to the Houston Astros in exchange for two pitching prospects.
The Yankees PR staff announced the deal on Twitter, noting the Astros were sending back right-handed pitchers Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman for McCann.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reported the Yankees will be sending the Astros $5.5 million in each of the next two years to help cover the $17 million McCann is owed in 2017 and 2018. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports confirmed the Astros would be paying McCann $11.5 million each of the next two seasons.
Rosenthal noted there is some expectation that McCann will catch 100-110 games with Evan Gattis covering the remaining games in 2017.
McCann is among the best offensive backstops of his generation, but he struggled in 2016 to the tune of a .242 batting average with 20 home runs and 58 RBI. That marked the lowest RBI total of his career in a season in which he played at least 130 games.
Although B-Mac hit just .232 in 2015, he set a career high with 26 home runs and tied a personal best with 94 RBI, which led to him winning his sixth career Silver Slugger Award, his first since making the leap to the American League from the Atlanta Braves.
You can not play this media on the current browser / platform.
Statcast: McCann’s two homers
The 32-year-old Georgia native is a seven-time All-Star selection, and he is a dangerous threat from the left side of the plate when swinging the bat to the best of his ability.
That wasn’t the case in 2016, and with the Yankees finding a long-term answer at catcher in Gary Sanchez, he became expendable.
McCann has two seasons left on his contract and a vested option for $15 million in 2019, according to Spotrac.com. Trading him now gives the Yanks more flexibility moving forward, and in doing so they dealt from a position of strength.
With Sanchez looking like a perennial All-Star and Austin Romine serving as a quality backup, New York has enough catching depth to get by without McCann for the remainder of 2016 and in the years to come.
The Yankees also continue to add depth to a much-improved farm system after last summer’s deals that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs, Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians and Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers.
Abreu is the prize for the Yankees in the deal. Per MLB.com, he was ranked as Houston’s No. 7 prospect with a fastball that has peaked at 99 mph. The 21-year-old has to harness his control after walking 58 in 101.2 innings last season, but he allowed just 74 hits and had 115 strikeouts between Low-A and High-A.
McCann’s struggles last season—particularly from a power perspective—were somewhat surprising considering the fact Yankee Stadium is tailor made for lefties with pop.
He took advantage of that in both 2014 and 2015, but 2016 didn’t yield the same results.
The Astros are hopeful he can regain the power stroke that has made him such a valuable commodity over the course of his 12-year MLB career, but gambling on a catcher over the age of 30 comes with some risk.
Catcher is the most physically demanding position in baseball, and there is no guarantee McCann will ever be the same offensive player he once was.
Because of that, the Yankees may have parted ways with him at the perfect time, especially since they have other catchers capable of producing in a big way.
New York hasn’t been a seller often over the past two decades, but after getting a great haul for several assets at last season’s trade deadline, this is another move that could allow it to return to contention in the near future.
The Astros are fortunate to have a deep lineup with Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. They don’t need McCann to return to his superstar form to justify this deal. Staying healthy and producing even average numbers at catcher would be a huge boost for them in 2017.