One catcher the Yankees could be eyeing in free agency

Alexander Wilson
New York Yankees, Yankees, James McCann
Sep 26, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox catcher James McCann (33) reacts after hitting a home run against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees could go in several different directions when it comes to catcher Gary Sanchez, and of course, JT Realmuto will be a part of the hot stove rumor mill this off-season.

Realmuto is arguably the best catcher in the MLB and is currently set to hit free agency, but he will command record-breaking money, something the Yankees are unlikely to dish out.

Upper management still has faith in Gary Sanchez, who had an extremely tough 2020 campaign. He finished the season with a .147 batting average, .365 slugging percentage, hitting 10 homers and 24 RBIs. Defensively, he logged a .984 fielding percentage with five passed balls and a 26% caught stealing rate. Overall, his season was tumultuous at best, leading the Yankees down an interesting path.

When the season concluded, manager Brian Cashman was vague about committing to Gary long term.

“It’s certainly a fair question the way Gary Sanchez’s season transpired,” Cashman said during his season wrap-up news conference. “It’s one of the discussion points we’re going to have to focus on. Obviously this COVID season was unique. You saw a lot of unexpected performances throughout both leagues, from players that are capable of more. We have to determine if that [Sanchez’s year] was a byproduct of unique circumstances or more a reflection of what is to be expected [from the player] moving forward.”

If the Yankees want to invest in a new catcher that won’t command the same money Realmuto is set to earn, Chicago White Sox’s James McCann could fit the bill.

At 30 years old, McCann has had a consistently impressive career. He was an All-Star in 2019 and backed up his strong performance with another stellar outing in 2020. He finished the season with a .289 batting average, .536 slugging, seven home runs, and 15 RBIs. While he’s not the slugger that Sanchez is, McCann does have power and is better in some defensive categories.

Defensively, he allowed just two pass balls with a .985 fielding percentage and threw out runners 33% of the time. From those numbers, we can say that McCann had an exponentially better season than Sanchez and would likely hit the market for far less than Realmuto. He was on a one-year, $5.4 million deal with the White Sox this past campaign, so even if the Yankees were to spend more on him this off-season, I don’t think he would breach $10 million per.

Of course, in this scenario, the Yankees would have to find a trade partner for Sanchez in exchange for several young prospects with potential. This would give them McCann and Kyle Higashioka as their primary catchers, which I am not entirely against.