Without a doubt, the Braves are going to be a markedly different team next year. The departure of Chipper will be the most notable change, but there will be other big rearrangements as well. In all likelihood, Michael Born will sign elsewhere. He can make more money playing in a different city. We owe Dan Uggla a truckload of money over the next three seasons, but it is in our best interest to find a replacement second basemen. Despite his atypical season (his first not being voted to the All-Star Game and his worst offensive season in the MLB), extending Brian McCann would provide some much needed stability and regularity to the everyday lineup.
Here’s the Atlanta catching situation without McCann: thirty-five year old David Ross is a good fill-in when McCann needs rest, but he is not a quality starting catcher. His contract expires after this season, but we could sign him inexpensively as a backup. Christian Bethancourt may be the Braves catcher of the future, but most agree that he isn’t ready for the big leagues. Bethancourt needs further development as a hitter, especially when it comes to plate discipline. Also, he’s scheduled to miss the remainder of this season with a hand injury. Several quality catchers will be available as free agents this offseason, but none worth the millions it would cost for a rental while Bethancourt develops.
It’s worth noting that McCann’s role for the Braves has changed from this season to last. For years now he’s been our major source of power, but we now have other players to fill that role—Freeman, Heyward, and even (gulp) Juan Francisco. Even with Uggla’s dismal play this year, we don’t have to slide McCann in the cleanup slot every game.
I won’t argue that McCann is a top-tier defensive catcher, but I will say that his presence behind the plate is important to the team. Consider his report with Tim Hudson, the most reliable member of our rotation. They both joined the Braves in 2005 and have played in over two hundred games together. Hudson is a professional and can pitch with any serviceable catcher, but his familiarity with McCann, and vice versa, is certainly an asset to the team.
Brian’s current 2012 slash line: .234/.307/.411. Is that worth twelve million dollars to a team without a ton of expendable resources? No. But with Brian McCann, the Braves would be buying more than his offense. That twelve million would pay for a familiar presence and leading voice in the clubhouse, a catcher comfortable with the Braves pitching rotation, and more time to develop the catcher of the future. Besides, given time to recover from his nagging shoulder injury in the offseason, there’s a very good chance that McCann will improve his game and once again be a big offensive asset for our team in 2013.