COMMENTARY | This isn't going to be easy.
The 2005 season, which saw the Atlanta Braves win the last of their record 14 consecutive division titles, was an enchanted season. An unbelievable 18 rookies played that year. Young players like Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur, and Kyle Davies played major roles in the pennant chase, exciting fans across Braves Country. The last holdover from that season is Brian McCann.
Fans often have a special place in their hearts for players from the area in which they play. The Braves, seemingly more than other teams, pursue players from Georgia and the South, creating a regional identity that other franchises don't enjoy. McCann, born in Athens, Georgia, and raised in Duluth, is an important part of that hometown identity.
From an offensive standpoint, Brian McCann is one of the best catchers in the major leagues. Since his debut in 2005, he leads all catchers in home runs, is second in WAR and runs batted in, is third in slugging, is fifth in hits, and is eighth in batting average. He has made 7 All-Star games, won the All-Star MVP Award in 2010, and won the Silver Slugger 5 times.
McCann has been an invaluable part of the Atlanta Braves almost since the moment he stepped on the field, but as the 2013 season draws to a close, it seems less and less likely that the Braves will be able to retain him. Earlier this season, I discussed how Atlanta was stuck between a rock and a hard place with McCann; if he performed poorly in 2013, the Braves may not be willing to re-sign him to a long-term contract in the tens of millions of dollars. But if he played well, the team may not be able to compete with the lucrative offers he is sure to receive this offseason.
McCann has returned to form this year after a stint on the DL, and with rumors swirling that the big-market clubs in the American League are very interested in his services, the unhappy fact is that there are better ways to use the money that the All-Star catcher may command in the offseason, money that may be in the neighborhood of $15 million.
Atlanta has about $43 million committed to contracts for next season. Huge talents like Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Beachy, and Jordan Walden are all entering their first year of salary arbitration and are sure to command major pay increases. Aside from Brian McCann, next year's free agents include Tim Hudson, Eric O'Flaherty, Paul Maholm, and Scott Downs. Maholm, and possibly Downs, will probably be allowed to move elsewhere, but the Braves should try to re-sign Hudson and O'Flaherty. Those two players made more than $13 million this year.
Those commitments may or may not leave room to re-sign McCann, but, if they chose to do so, it would almost certainly bring the club right up to the $90 million payroll it had this season, if not beyond. This would allow for little flexibility for other possible offseason transactions, such as strengthening the bench or possibly pursuing a top-of-the-line starting pitcher. By leaving that money free, the Braves have far more options as they enter the 2014 season.
Brian McCann is a fan-favorite, an excellent ballplayer, and a leader in the clubhouse. But as the Atlanta Braves look to the future, it is in the best interest of the club to look for other options. Sometimes, you just have to leave home.Joe Thomas was raised and lives within shouting distance of Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. He is the sports editor for The Sting, the student newspaper of Southern Polytechnic State University.
- Sports & Recreation
- Atlanta Braves
- Brian McCann