Nationals free agency hunt: James McCann

Todd Dybas
·2 min read

Nationals free agency hunt: James McCann originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Nationals have several spots to fill, a solid chunk of money to possibly do it with and lots of quality options to choose from.

The free agent list this year is not about superstar names. Rather, it’s about depth and quality. Even the second tier of free agents holds value, especially if their contracts are brief and costs suppressed by a mediocre market.

All week, we’re going to take a look at individuals who could fit in different places for the Nationals. We start with former Chicago White Sox catcher James McCann.

What he does well: Framing. McCann is in the 88th percentile -- the “great” range -- when it comes to framing, according to Baseball Savant. As a comparison point, J.T. Realmuto is in the 95th percentile. McCann also threw out 36 percent of runners in his career. As anyone watching the Nationals in recent years knows, throwing out a base stealer is combined work for the battery, but McCann still represents well here via pop time and arm strength.

Where he fits with the Nationals: McCann is Realmuto-light this offseason. He is a high-end, 30-year-old defensive catcher. His offense has improved the last two years -- 109 wRC+ in 2019 and 144 in shortened 2020 -- to the point he’s offensively a quality player, too. In 2019, McCann caught 118 games and finished with 2.3 fWAR. Relamuto finished with 5.7 in 145 games. So, McCann will end up a much less expensive option, who also has quality skills. A veteran pitching staff would be excited by his presence. He could also take over as the No. 1 catcher in 2022 when Yan Gomes’ contract expires and a minor-leaguer, like Tres Berrera, could be ready as a backup.

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The Nationals need a second catcher to pair with Gomes following the departure of Kurt Suzuki, then someone to step to the forefront in 2022. McCann would fit.