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Brian McCann joins Yankees with best days likely behind him

Nov 23, 2013, 8:24 PM EDT

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Getty Images

Turning 30 in February, Brian McCann is pretty young as far as free agents go, even though he decided to forgo his first two years of eligibility as part of a long-term deal with the Braves. He clearly has several more years as a regular catcher in his future, and he was worthy of being regarded as the No. 1 catcher on the market this winter before agreeing to a five-year, $85 million deal with the Yankees on Saturday.

All of that said, McCann isn’t on a very good trajectory as he hits age 30. Here are his OPS+s by year:

143, 99, 135, 119, 124, 122, 87, 115

The 87 from 2012 can be discounted, given that he was battling a shoulder injury that required surgery. But even so, that still looks like a downward slope. His career OPS has tumbled five straight years, from .859 after 2008 to .823 now. Last season, he finished at .796.

Fangraphs WAR also shows the same general pattern:

4.3 – 1.9 – 5.3 – 4.0 – 5.1 – 3.9 – 1.7 – 2.7

According to Baseball-reference’s similarity scores, Lance Parrish is the player most comparable to McCann through age 29. And it seems like a great comparison. McCann’s OPS+ through age 29 is 117, Parrish’s was 113. McCann caught 1,046 games through age 29 (11th all-time), Parrish 1,007. Basically, the difference was that McCann had a great season at 22, while Parrish struggled as a rookie.

McCann’s OPS+s: 143, 99, 135, 119, 124, 122, 87, 115
Parrish’s OPS+s.: 86, 112, 121, 100, 135, 119, 100, 118

Parrish went on to have a great two-thirds of a season at age 30, finishing with a 122 OPS+ in his last year with the Tigers. He then signed a big free agent contract with the Phillies and was a bust, amassing OPS+s of 85 and 89 there before being shipped to the Angels. He had just one more strong offensive season in his career, finishing with a 123 OPS+ at age 34. Overall, he hit .244/.317/.416, good for a 102 OPS+, from ages 30-34. Those are the ages McCann will be during his five-year deal with the Yankees.

Of course, McCann could do better; Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey are also on his  list of similars. But it certainly looks like McCann already climbed that mountain. The Yankees need hope it’s a smooth descent and that no cliffs lie ahead.

  1. Matthew Pouliot - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    Incidentally, Lance Parrish’s son, David, was the last catcher picked in the first round by the Yankees, going 28th overall in the 2000 draft. He never reached the majors. Hit 35 homers in 2,457 minor league at-bats over nine seasons.

  2. rbj1 - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:27 PM

    Cashman’s modus operandi.

  3. deadrabbit79 - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    Had he signed with any other team i am sure this article would sound a lot different right?

    • paperlions - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:42 PM

      Nah, this is pretty much how all Pouliot posts read.

      If he won the lottery, all he’d do is glumly complain about the taxes on it.

    • pisano - Nov 24, 2013 at 9:39 AM

      Exactly, if Boston had signed him, they’d be crowned 2014 WS Champions today. The title would have said,” Boston finds missing piece to another WS Championship”. He’ll do just fine in NY, and I’m sure there’s plenty more moves coming.

  4. paperlions - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:40 PM

    Every player that is 30 probably has their best playing days behind them. Player production peaks between 26-28 and starts to decline slowly at 29 with the rate of decline increasing with age. Pretty much every FA is in already on the decline, that’s how the system works.

    • stabonerichard - Nov 23, 2013 at 10:49 PM

      Right. And since we’re talking about the most demanding defensive position on the diamond, with a guy who’s durability has decreased each of the past 3 seasons, your points is further illuminated.

      So when a team dives into that scenario with a guaranteed 85 million dollars, you’re going to try to spin that positive and then take potshots at the guy who’s simply calling it like it is?

      • paperlions - Nov 24, 2013 at 11:20 AM

        He had shoulder surgery. Injuries happen regardless of age. Last year he showed that he was recovered from the surgery.

  5. steelers88 - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    I think McCann is going to probably rejuvenate his career. I could see him putting up some big power numbers over the next 5 years Yankees stadium is a BANDBOX!

    • stabonerichard - Nov 23, 2013 at 10:57 PM

      Tex was gonna be a beast in that stadium too.

  6. tfbuckfutter - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:50 PM

    I noticed an interesting trend between his Games Played and his WAR….

    It seems as though, generally speaking, the more games he plays in….the more valuable he is to the team.

    Now, I’m not sure what exactly that means, and perhaps someone who understands the advance metrics of the sport can fill in the blanks, but that trend seems very peculiar.

    • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Nov 23, 2013 at 11:55 PM

      WAR is a counting stat, so it stands to reason that an above-replacement level player is going to amass more WAR as he plays more games.

      • tfbuckfutter - Nov 24, 2013 at 12:17 AM

        Fascinating.

        Please continue.

  7. jj871 - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    The article fails to mention that the Yankees received a combined -.4 WAR out of their 2 starting catchers last year.

    So yes, even if McCann has peaked, he represents a massive upgrade over the catchers who were behind the plate for them last year.

    • stabonerichard - Nov 23, 2013 at 11:00 PM

      Even the worst GM could upgrade a roster in a significant way with an $85M investment. Whether that’s the best way to spend that money… as always, time will tell.

  8. NYTolstoy - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:52 PM

    No one honestly expects him to be as good as he was in he’s 20s, and a decline in his numbers are obviously part of aging. Still as a Yankee fan this is a good deal. The team had no catching all year, struggled to must up offense and the pitcher’s suffered for it. Now there is a leader behind the plate to help those arms navigate there pitches. He brings the offense of what Posada had with the much needed defense. Something Yankees havnt seen in decades, being left handed will help as well playing 50-60 games at Yankee stadium. If his OPS stays above 800 for the next 2 years it will be worth it and even if his OPS goes to around 750 in the next 3-4 year’s that’s still average for a hitter around the league. It’s even better for a catcher who handles the pitching crew 120-140 games a year. This does not include the fact that he can play some DH now, which will help him rest and hopefully keep him healthy. So in all this is a very good signing for what we know we can expect from him. Especially in this market, the money is not insane and works out well for the Yankees Payroll. I’m all smiles no gloom train for me thank you.

  9. keltictim - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:53 PM

    Well I guess the yanks are kinda learning their lessons. 5/85 isn’t super long or super high, however they did overpay in my estimation and he is no posada so I would imagine they are thinking 2 years behind the plate and then move him to first. I am very glad the sox didn’t get him but we do need a catcher. Sorry salty it was fun while it lasted

  10. johnnysoda - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:54 PM

    Wait, wait, wait. You’re telling me that when a player turns 30, his best days are likely behind him? No way! I mean, he’s, like, the first player in baseball history that applies to whatsoever. Talk about insight!

    • yahmule - Nov 24, 2013 at 9:30 AM

      Well, that’s the way it is now. For a while there, guys were miraculously having career years in their mid 30s quite routinely.

  11. plmathfoto - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Wonder if ARod is allowed to play this year, if Sergeant McCann will block his way to going to third base in the name of the unwritten rules of baseball.

    • quintjs - Nov 23, 2013 at 11:56 PM

      David Ortiz is known to be a touch slow out of the box – those games could get interesting…

      • yahmule - Nov 24, 2013 at 9:31 AM

        Dudes with the red ass always find a reason to show it.

  12. m3dman3 - Nov 23, 2013 at 9:05 PM

    I guess they let anyone be a sports writer nowadays huh matty p?

  13. kev86 - Nov 23, 2013 at 9:11 PM

    Good signing by Yanks. Makes me sick to say it. But hey, my Mets signed a career .235 hitter that batted .200 last year over 7 mil.

  14. uyf1950 - Nov 23, 2013 at 9:25 PM

    This blog smacks of “paralysis analysis”. What Matthew fails to realize is the Yankees just filled a glaring need in their roster with the best position player for that position on the market and probably one of the top 3 catchers in all of MLB. The $17MM per year AAV is nothing to the Yankees and the 5 guaranteed years is something the Yankees can certainly deal with. Considering as of today excluding this signing the Yankees only have 2 guaranteed salaries for just around $50MM that they are committed to for 2017 and nothing on the books after that.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Nov 23, 2013 at 10:51 PM

      My god, you’re right. I actually thought they were still playing Posada last year. Guess that’s what I get for not watching a single Yankees game since 2003.

      Or, ya know, maybe this was just a blog about McCann and how he’s aging and not really about the Yankees at all. Because, I mean if you actually read it, there isn’t actually a critical word about the deal itself in the entry.

      • uyf1950 - Nov 23, 2013 at 11:20 PM

        My god I guess if you don’t count the headline of the article “Brian McCann joins Yankees with best days likely behind him”. I guess that doesn’t count as a critical word.

        BTW, I did read the piece and while you don’t come right out and criticize the deal it’s had to draw any other conclusion from several of the paragraphs.

        To quote Bret Harte the American author: “We begin to die as soon as we are born,.. ” In that light Brian McCann isn’t the only one to have our best days behind him.

        Have a good evening and perhaps you won’t have a critical word about the next Yankee deal either.

      • proudlycanadian - Nov 24, 2013 at 7:02 AM

        Matthew has not watched a single Yankees game since 2003 even though it seems that the Yankees play the Red Sox on national TV every second week. He must watch those games on NESN rather than YES.

      • pisano - Nov 24, 2013 at 9:46 AM

        Kinda like closing the barn door after the horses got out, isn’t Matt?

    • drewzducks - Nov 24, 2013 at 12:00 AM

      Are u saying that the Yanks are only committed to 2 players four seasons from now at approx $25M each (I’m guessing they’d be in their late 30’s and barely viable by then), and you think that’s a GOOD thing ? I guess when a team only develops 1 All Star caliber player in 10+ years you better hope to hit on free agency and get lucky in trades.

      • uyf1950 - Nov 24, 2013 at 12:31 PM

        My friend I thought my initial comment was fairly clear. You are free to interpret it as you see fit.

  15. hockeyfan28 - Nov 23, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    He’s still decent but not all star level anymore great team guy but if Yankees fans are expecting him to be Johnny Bench or Jorge Posada he’s not that he’s a nice platoon catcher who with Evan Gattis now would have had a tough time even starting in Atlanta next year had he still been there

    • uyf1950 - Nov 23, 2013 at 9:52 PM

      Apparently your comments fly in the face of every other source in MLB when it comes to McCann as a catcher both offensively and defensively and especially playing in Yankees Stadium.

      BTW, as for this Yankees fan I’m certainly not expecting him to be Bench, Posada, Berra or any of the others. All I’m expecting is for him to be is the very best he can be. And that certainly is an upgrade over anything the Yankees have on their roster or anything else that was available on the free agent market.

      • hockeyfan28 - Nov 23, 2013 at 11:32 PM

        You should watch the braves sometime he didn’t have a hit the last three weeks of the season

      • pisano - Nov 24, 2013 at 9:48 AM

        Well said my friend. If the Yankees get him, he’s done, if Boston gets him, print the WS tickets, This sh#t really gets old.

      • uyf1950 - Nov 24, 2013 at 12:46 PM

        hockeyfan28, please try and get your facts straight. I guess then you don’t consider Sept. 17, 18, 20 and 22 when he went 5 for 17 the last 3 weeks of the 2013 regular season. You do know the 2013 MLB regular season ended on Sept. 29. And fine he struggled in the 2013 postseason in 2010 he batted .429 in the postseason. Hanging you hat like you seem to be doing on such a small sample size if you are referring to the 2013 postseason is fool hardy.

    • genericcommenter - Nov 24, 2013 at 10:49 AM

      Evan Gattis is a one-dimensional player who struggles to get on base and isn’t known for his defense. He’s a nice story, but he’s not blocking much better options from playing. Gattis would continue to be a backup C, DH, and OF. McCann was more valuable last year and only a couple years older.

  16. uyf1950 - Nov 23, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    As a Yankees fan aside from this being a great signing for the Yankees, in my opinion. It signals that the Yankees are not standing still waiting for something to happen with both Cano and A-Rod. The Yankees are starting to take care of business and this is just the beginning of what I think will be several big name, elite player signings.

    • proudlycanadian - Nov 24, 2013 at 7:04 AM

      I wonder which former Detroit second baseman they plan to sign for a 3 or 4 year contract?

      • uyf1950 - Nov 24, 2013 at 12:34 PM

        My friend as I’ve stated previously here. I’m all for the Yankees giving Cano an ultimatum and then moving on sooner rather than later. BTW, I think you already know I cast my vote for Infante if Cano doesn’t get his head out of his but with his demands soon.

      • proudlycanadian - Nov 24, 2013 at 1:13 PM

        They should act soon or Infante might be gone.

      • uyf1950 - Nov 24, 2013 at 4:06 PM

        Proudly, I’ve been ready ready where the Yankees are not waiting around for Cano to act. I’ve also read where the Yankees have several offers already out to players. I would not be the least bit surprised if he’s not one of the players Cashman has spoken to his agent to already. And if nothing else told his agent to keep the Yankees in the loop.

        The McCann signing tell me that the Yankees have no intention of sitting on their thumbs waiting for either Cano or A-Rod’s situation to handcuff them with players they like and that can help them.

      • proudlycanadian - Nov 24, 2013 at 4:49 PM

        Makes sense to me.

      • uyf1950 - Nov 24, 2013 at 4:15 PM

        correction: I’ve been reading reading reading where the Yankees…..

      • uyf1950 - Nov 24, 2013 at 4:16 PM

        Let’s try that correction again: I’ve been “reading” where the Yankees….

  17. mvd513 - Nov 23, 2013 at 11:29 PM

    League average offense from a catcher is still good.

  18. ningenito78 - Nov 24, 2013 at 12:20 AM

    I have a headache….

  19. 4d3fect - Nov 24, 2013 at 12:21 AM

    Suckers.

    At least they’ll have another disciple of “how to play the game the right way”

  20. jm91rs - Nov 24, 2013 at 7:00 AM

    The Yankees just significantly upgraded their team and didn’t have to spend $100M to do so. I’m calling that a win compared to all of the other big Yankees deals recently.

  21. mcsnide - Nov 24, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    As a Red Sox fan, I LOVE this signing because it’s good for the rivalry, which has lost a lot of its heat recently. Over the last few years, the Yankees haven’t really had players that are easy to hate (other than A-Rod, but that’s so comically overdone at this point as to be meaningless). Further, many of the players are quite friendly with each other.

    McCann could change all that. I can’t imagine the Defender of All that is Good and Holy in Baseball (trademark pending) taking kindly to the Ortiz home run, staredown, bat flip, 25 second trot around the bases routine. He’s bound to at least tell him to run at some point, and I really, really hope he’ll attempt to explain home run etiquette to a guy with more than 400 of them. For the first time in a long time, I’m really excited about playing the Yankees next year. Less than two months til pitchers and catchers report!

  22. pisano - Nov 24, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    uyf1950… I to am all for Infante, Cano is crazy if he thinks any team will give him even remotely what he’s asking for, I realize most of this is posturing, but lets be serious. I say play hardball with him, if he can do better than the Yankees offer, go get it. I for one am tired of this circus.

    • uyf1950 - Nov 24, 2013 at 4:13 PM

      My friend I couldn’t agree more. Cano/Jay Z and whoever else is advising him may soon find themselves looking at one less team interested in re-signing him. Cano is an excellent player but his $25MM or so that some team may have have to fork out for him can go a long way spread out among 2 or 3 players OR to fill some other need in the case of the Yankees,

      After all Infante and Jimenez OR Infante and Beltran OR Choo would be just as good if not better then just spending the money on 1 player even if it is Cano.

  23. DelawarePhilliesFan - Nov 24, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    I guess it is a knee-jerk reaction to assume the Phillies overpaid anyone….but Lance Parrish DID NOT sign a big contract with the Phillies. The Tigers offered him $1.2 million guaranteed and he turned it down, meaning he cold no rejoin them, per the rules of FA at that time. He got 1 year $1 million form the Philles, and only $800K was guaranteed. He later sued baseball for collusion and won

    http://www.nytimes.com/1992/12/15/sports/baseball-big-collusion-winners-clark-parrish-dawson.html

  24. jfk69 - Nov 24, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    We are all slowly dying. No way to know who gets there sooner.

  25. DLJonesTwo - Nov 25, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    God this is an awful read… it just wreaks of bitterness that McCann went to the Yankees. Can you write something with some life to it and leave out all these boring numbers and stats? The guy is 30 years old and better than Cervelli, Stewart and Romine. It’s an upgrade for the Yankees even if your boring numbers suggest otherwise.

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