There have been folks out there in Internet Land who have suggested the Braves trade Brian McCann when he is healthy to keep Evan Gattis in the lineup. In Gattis the Braves seem to have a catcher in place when McCann’s contract expires at the end of the 2013 season. Instead of waiting for free agency, why not trade McCann sometime this season and get nice return that could help the Braves win in 2013?
Obviously McCann is a great player who can catch and hit, so an American League team may be able to insert him into a catcher/DH role and get much more out of him than the Braves or any other National League team. Even a National League team would love to have him as their catcher, should the Braves make him available, no question. So the issue is not whether the Braves could get something for McCann. The issue is can the Braves get back what McCann could be worth to them?
On the one hand, McCann is coming off injury. On the other hand, he’s a great player, who can both hit and catch, and who is still fairly young. On the other hand a team trading for him would only have him under contract for a little over five months. So are the Braves better off with McCann and Gattis or Gattis and whomever the Braves get in return for five months of McCann?
It’s hard to know at this point what the Braves have in Gattis. It’s just too early to tell. In the minors he dominated kids that were still developing physically and as baseball players. In the majors he’s done most of his damage off of mediocre-to-poor pitching. Yet, there is no denying his power and it’s not as if his performance so far has been merely good but outstanding. If trading McCann is a real possibility the Braves probably want to wait until at least closer to June and maybe not until the deadline approaches. With a unique player like Gattis, they would probably want to make sure that they have a legit major league everyday catcher.
Even if the Braves wait and Gattis puts up an outstanding 3-4-month period, there is no guarantee the Braves will have an idea of who Gattis is and what he’s likely to do for the final half or final couple of months of the season. As I wrote in my last post, remember Johnny Estrada looked like a solid major leaguer but he only had one really good season. By the time we realized who he was, he seemed to be done as a big leaguer. There is really no point jumping the gun to trade McCann and take the risk that Gattis is truly just a very good backup catcher/pinch-hitter/backup corner-outfielder, unless the Braves could get quite a haul for McCann.
I suppose it’s possible that some team could get desperate for a catcher/DH between the time McCann comes back and the trade deadline, and would give up a ton for McCann. But, again, as great as McCann is as a baseball player, he’s coming off an injury and, more importantly, he’s only under contract through the rest of this season. Teams don’t trade and trade for players; they trade and trade for players and their contracts. I just don’t see a team giving up a good, big-league regular for a player coming off injury and who is only under contact through this season, no matter how good the player they would get back. And it would be quite risky for the Braves to trust that they know what they have in Gattis, even if he continues to play well, and to trade an outstanding player in McCann, if they aren’t getting at least a first-division, very good, regular player.
If a team is desperate and somehow gives the Braves a clear-cut, better-than-average third baseman or a #2 type starting pitcher, or possibly a prospect or two that have the tools and skills to be at least something close to an All-Star, I don’t know that trading McCann is worthwhile. And I don’t think that kind of return is likely. Gattis will likely get plenty of playing time as the second catcher, backup corner-outfielder and the first pinch-hitting option off the bench. If McCann walks, Gattis’ time will come. The 2013 Braves are better off with McCann and Gattis than Gattis and whatever they would have to settle for in a McCann trade.