Frustration apparent, but White Sox still have big role planned for James McCann

Vinnie Duber
NBC Sports Chicago

GLENDALE, Ariz. - From the White Sox perspective, there's nothing better than having not just one, but two All-Star catchers.

But not everyone sounds thrilled with the new catching situation. Specifically, one of the catchers.

It's not at all unexpected that James McCann would have some frustration after turning his career around in 2019, going from a five-year backup with minimal offensive production to an All Star, only for the White Sox to hand out a franchise-record contract to Yasmani Grandal, another All-Star backstop with a much longer track record of success both at the plate and behind it.

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McCann performed well enough to earn the starting job in 2020. Instead, he's at No. 2 on the depth chart.

"I guess you can say in this business there's nothing that should surprise you," he said Wednesday, when pitchers and catchers reported for duty at Camelback Ranch. "There's things you can control and things you can't control, and the business side of things you can't control.

"All you do is prepare to take care of yourself as far as offseason preparations go, being ready for spring training, then spring training and getting ready for the season. And everything else is what it is."

None of this is to say that McCann wasn't offering up typical team-first platitudes, expressing his desire to do whatever the White Sox asked of him. But his tone was not a cheery one. It was one you might expect from someone who earned a starting job and won't get it.

"I'm just here doing my job," he said. "Whatever they ask me to do, I'll be willing to do.

"All you can control is how you handle your own self and how you handle your own preparations, and that was my main focus throughout the offseason and that will continue to be my main focus: how to make myself better and how to help the team win."

One of the biggest questions of the offseason from fans was what the White Sox now do with McCann. He would figure to be a decent trade chip that would entice any team still looking for a starter behind the plate. But he's also extraordinarily valuable as a No. 2 catcher on a team with hopes of reaching the postseason for the first time in more than a decade.

McCann is no sure thing to repeat his All-Star caliber performance in 2020. His first- and second-half splits were dramatic last season, with his .316/.371/.502 slash line before the All-Star break yielding to a .226/.281/.413 line after it. But the impact he had as a hard worker and game planner doesn't figure to go anywhere.

While McCann's starts behind the plate and playing time in general are certain to decrease in a big way with Grandal's arrival, the White Sox are still planning on their new backup catcher making a significant contribution.

"A pivotal role," manager Rick Renteria said Wednesday. "He's an integral part of who we are as we move forward. Him and Yasmani, they're here to take that staff and give us the best possibility of being able to take care of matchups when we need to and to pick each other up.

"You can't run a catcher out there every single day. You can't expect one guy's going to catch 162 games. It's not going to happen. I ran Mac out there trying to catch almost 162 games (last season), and you know you start to break down a little bit.

"Having two guys who you can truthfully trust and being able to manage the pitching is a huge benefit to us, and we're happy that we have these two guys to balance us out."

You certainly can't blame McCann for any frustration, nor should any frustration hit as unexpected after the White Sox made a major upgrade with Grandal. McCann said plenty of the right things Wednesday, too, and for that he should be commended. That's what the White Sox spent Wednesday doing: commending McCann.

"He and I spoke I think three times this past offseason, the first time being right after we made the Grandal move," general manager Rick Hahn said. "Each time, he fundamentally has reiterated his desire to win and be part of a championship club.

"From an individual standpoint, I certainly understand guys want to compete. All 26 guys on that team are going to want to try to compete every day. You want that hunger. You don't necessarily wants guys who feel like they couldn't handle more.

"In terms of the interactions with James, it's been positive from the standpoint of trying to be part of something special."

Competing doesn't seem to be something McCann has any plans to stop doing. And if the White Sox are going to make their big leap into playoff contention this season, they'll need contributions from up and down the roster - and up and down the catching depth chart, too.

"I'm going to take stuff from (Grandal), as I'm sure he'll be able to take some stuff from me," McCann said. "That's what makes a team good, when guys can grow from each other and push each other."

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Frustration apparent, but White Sox still have big role planned for James McCann originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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