MLB Free Agency: Former White Sox catcher James McCann signs with Mets

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James McCann finds a new home in the National League originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

James McCann will not be returning to the South Side in 2021.

Though it has seemed a longshot from the get-go that the All-Star catcher would re-sign with the White Sox this winter, that possibility is now gone, with multiple reports indicating that McCann signed a four-year free-agent contract with the New York Mets worth more than $40 million.

McCann came to the White Sox as a veteran bridge to first-round pick Zack Collins but turned into so much more in transforming his career. He went from non-tendered by the division-rival Detroit Tigers after the 2018 season to a 2019 All Star, putting up All-Star caliber offensive numbers again during the shortened 2020 campaign.

RELATED: Why Sox haven't gone to top of free-agent market this winter

McCann won plaudits not only for his production at the plate but for his impact on his teammates, helping Lucas Giolito go from the pitcher with the worst statistics in baseball in 2018 to an All Star in his own right in 2019 and one of the top pitchers in baseball. McCann was described by teammates as a tremendous clubhouse presence and a team leader. All the while, he showed off his commitment to improving his own game, making huge defensive strides in 2020 and being named a Gold Glove finalist.

The move to the East Coast will be a bittersweet one for the White Sox and their fans, who would have loved to see McCann stay on the South Side as part of what was described as a “luxury” catching tandem alongside Yasmani Grandal. But with his performance in two seasons in a White Sox uniform, McCann earned the opportunity to top a major league depth chart, something he couldn’t get on the South Side after Grandal signed the richest free-agent deal in club history just last offseason.

McCann is the first of what is expected to be a number of big dominos to fall for the Mets this winter as new owner Steve Cohen arrives with promises of spending big to turn them into a contender in the uber-competitive NL East.

For the White Sox, they now need to replace McCann on the depth chart behind Grandal, with internal candidates in the aforementioned Collins, as well as Yermín Mercedes. Collins swung an incredible bat in the minor leagues in 2019 but hasn’t received much of a chance to do so at the major league level. Mercedes, meanwhile, has achieved a sort of folk-hero status among White Sox fans thanks to a fun-loving personality and a home-run barrage during spring training. Whether either is able to handle the job defensively, however, is a bit of an unknown.

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