ATLANTA -- With his 33rd birthday and 13th season as a Major League catcher looming, it's possible Brian McCann's body may not allow him replicate the production that earned him seven All-Star selections in his first eight full seasons in Atlanta. But the Braves still would be wise to continue monitoring the cost of bringing McCann back to his hometown team.
Though the Braves have not ruled out the possibility of entering next season with incumbents Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker behind the plate, they have made it clear their offseason focus will be on landing at least two starting pitchers and a catcher to pair with Flowers.
"We don't know what kind of trade opportunities or free agent possibilities are going to be out there," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "There might be some guys who we thought would price themselves out that come in at a great bargain deal. We want to stay flexible."
If the Yankees continue to demand Mike Foltynewicz or Ender Inciarte be included in any deal involving McCann, the Braves will look at more sensible options. They likely weren't going to get into a bidding war for Wilson Ramos even before the veteran catcher suffered a significant knee injury and there has never been any indication they have interest in Matt Wieters, who will be considered the top available catcher on the free agent market.
Because there will not be many attractive options for the Braves to find a catcher through free agency, there's reason to believe Coppolella will be more likely to fill this need via trade. Thus, there will continue to be at least some speculation about McCann, whose value is enhanced by his clubhouse leadership and the impressive pitching IQ he cultivated while working with Hall of Famers John Smoltz and Tom Glavine during his stint in Atlanta (2005-13).
There's no doubt the Yankees would have to eat a portion of the $34 million McCann is guaranteed over the next two seasons, but this variable will also influence the level of return the Braves would need to provide.
During his three seasons with the Yankees, McCann has batted .235/.313/.418 with 69 home runs and a .731 OPS. He caught 36.5 percent of attempted basestealers from 2014-15, but that number dropped to 22.9 percent this year, which mirrored his marks in Atlanta and easily bested Flowers, who was a woeful 3-for-63 in the caught-stealing category this year.
With Flowers, the Braves have a cerebral catcher who adeptly handled the pitching staff while hitting .270/.357/.420 with eight home runs this season. McCann hit .241 (28-for-116) against left-handed pitchers in 2015 and a career low .218 (19-for-87) this past year. Both of these catchers are at a stage of their respective careers where they likely would need at least a couple days off per week.
McCann hit 19 of his 23 homers at home during the 2014 season, certainly benefiting from the lefty-friendly environment at Yankee Stadium. But he recorded the 10th 20-homer season of his career this year, including 11 dingers in 221 at-bats at home and nine in 208 at-bats on the road.
Like any other established catcher who has surpassed his 30th birthday and accrued a lot of mileage behind the plate, McCann would come with some concerns. But as the Braves attempt to restore what they consider the Braves Way, there's at least reason to consider revisiting their catcher from their last period of contention.