ATLANTA -- Brian McCann drew laughs when he prematurely revealed he's looking forward to having Josh Donaldson as a teammate next year. But really, it was McCann's unselfish desire to play in Atlanta that provided the Braves the financial flexibility necessary to celebrate the addition of two highly regarded veterans.The
ATLANTA -- Brian McCann drew laughs when he prematurely revealed he's looking forward to having Josh Donaldson as a teammate next year. But really, it was McCann's unselfish desire to play in Atlanta that provided the Braves the financial flexibility necessary to celebrate the addition of two highly regarded veterans.
The Braves proudly welcomed McCann back with a one-year, $2 million deal that was announced on Monday afternoon. Atlanta and Donaldson agreed to a one-year, $23 million deal that was announced later on Monday.
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While Braves officials could not comment on Donaldson during McCann's news conference, it was nearly impossible for them to hide the excitement fueled by the fact that McCann was willing to decline more lucrative offers for the opportunity to once again play for his beloved hometown team.
"The fact that he cares about this place so much, about the community and Atlanta and the Braves, it's hard to quantify that," Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "So that has tremendous value beyond what he's going to provide in the [batter's] box or behind the plate. From a financial standpoint, it fit in a lot of ways and allowed us to do a lot of other things we plan on doing, as well.
"He wanted to be here. He didn't need to do this at all. This is about winning for him. A lot of players say it, but they don't really honor and live up to that. I'm not surprised given how others talk about [McCann's] character and makeup."
Selected to be John Smoltz's personal catcher less than a month into his career and blessed with the opportunity to maximize the hitting knowledge offered by Chipper Jones, McCann has long been honored to be a part of the Braves' tradition. He was a 21-year-old rookie when Atlanta notched the last of its 14 consecutive division titles in 2005. Now, he's an older and wiser 34-year-old who is looking to impact what has the chance to be the franchise's next extended run of success.
"I've always kept up with how [the Braves] are doing," McCann said. "To see where they're at now, where they're knocking at the door for championships, that is what this organization stands for. That's what it's been built on since way back in the day. It's been passed from generation to generation. This organization and this jersey is a big deal. The players today are bringing that back. I'm just glad to be a part of that."
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McCann said, "It just feels right," as he donned the same No. 16 jersey he wore while previously in Atlanta from 2005-13. He regained this number with the blessing of Charlie Culberson, who joined Lane Adams in 2017 as the only other Atlanta players to wear it within the past five seasons.
"It's good to get a guy with the instant credibility he brings," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He feels really good, and he's going to be energized to be back home. We raised this kid. Now to get him back at this point in his career is going to be very beneficial for this club."
After spending nine seasons with Atlanta, McCann signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Yankees. He wore the pinstripes for three years and then was traded to Houston, where he played a key role in the Astros' World Series triumph in 2017. He was then burdened with a right knee injury that limited him to 63 games in 2018.
Throughout his time away from Atlanta, his hometown dating back to junior high school, McCann kept close tabs on the Braves.
"The farm system is so valuable," McCann said. "You see these guys coming up -- [Ronald] Acuna Jr., [Ozzie] Albies, Dansby [Swanson], [Johan] Camargo -- and becoming impact players. That allows a team to go out and get a [Josh] Donaldson. But that's how you win championships."
A few seconds later, after realizing he might have prematurely confirmed Donaldson's agreement, McCann said, "I don't know if I was supposed to say that. I just read it on Twitter. I wasn't supposed to say that, huh?"
Sitting alongside his new catcher, Anthopoulos smiled and said, "I don't even know who you're talking about."
The Braves are looking forward to sharing many more laughs and good times with McCann, who believes he has fully recovered from the constant discomfort he battled while playing with a torn right meniscus that was surgically repaired in July.
"There's obviously an element of risk here with the injury," Anthopoulos said. "But he's a really motivated and proud player that brings a lot to the room. When he's right, he receives very well. His framing has been very good in the past. His game calling is outstanding, which is really important. We view this position as an extension of those 12 or 13 guys on the pitching staff."
McCann got off to a good start last season, hitting .271 with a .804 OPS in April. But once the right knee discomfort became debilitating, he struggled before opting to have surgery. The .784 OPS he produced over 43 plate appearances in September gives the Braves some hope his bat still has some of that value it possessed when he hit at least 18 home runs over 12 consecutive seasons (2006-17).
"We think there is going to be upside and we think he can bounce back and be a much better offensive player than he was," Anthopoulos said. "The [medical] reports were very strong, and they thought he looks great."
With McCann and Tyler Flowers, the Braves have a pair of veteran catchers who could share the position much like Flowers and Kurt Suzuki have over the past two seasons. But with one left-handed hitter and a right-handed hitter, this arrangement could lead to a more of a traditional platoon, one that would be influenced by the limitations created by the catching position.
Flowers produced a .823 OPS in 2017 and a .700 OPS in '18 as he returned from offseason surgery to repair his left wrist and forearm. Still, he hit .348 with a 1.117 OPS in 88 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers. McCann produced a .767 OPS and hit 13 of his 18 homers in 288 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers in 2017.
"Brian and Tyler can be every bit as effective as Kurt and Tyler were the last two years in the same type of role," Snitker said. "The left-righty thing might give you a little edge in some situations. There's some really good right-handed pitching in our division that we face."
Thirteen years ago, Snitker was the Double-A manager who informed McCann he was being promoted to the Majors. The baby-faced catcher who arrived that year and announced his presence with a homer against Roger Clemens in the NL Division Series is now looking forward to being the seasoned veteran who can extend the Braves' tradition that Smoltz, Jones and others passed down to him
"This is coming full circle," McCann said. "This is coming all the way back around and getting to play with and play for people I've known for a long time. This is a great day."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.