NEW YORK -- The Yankees are on the verge of completing a bold upgrade behind the plate, agreeing to terms on Saturday with free-agent catcher Brian McCann on a five-year contract worth at least $85 million.
McCann, widely regarded as the top available catcher on the market, will need to pass a physical before the deal becomes official. The Yankees have not made an announcement regarding the signing.
The deal includes a vesting option for the 2019 season that could push its overall value to $100 million, a source confirmed to MLB.com. It also contains a full no-trade clause.
McCann, who will turn 30 on Feb. 20, spent each of his first nine Major League seasons with the Braves, making seven All-Star teams and winning five Silver Slugger Awards. The signing will cost the Yankees their first-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, as McCann had been issued a qualifying offer by the Braves, and Atlanta will receive a compensation round pick.
In 102 games last season, he hit .256 with 20 home runs, 57 RBIs and a .796 OPS. McCann's left-handed power stroke figures to fit nicely in Yankee Stadium, restoring some of the punch that the Yankees sorely lacked from their catchers this past season.
New York struggled to find offensive production from its catchers, giving extended playing time to Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine after declining to match the two-year, $17 million contract Russell Martin found with the Pirates.
With general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi agreeing to try their defense-first catching alignment, the Yanks' backstops produced an overall line of .213/.289/.298 with only eight home runs and 43 RBIs.
McCann projects to lean more toward the levels of power production that the Yankees received from Martin and, before him, fan favorite Jorge Posada. McCann has hit at least 20 homers in each of the last six seasons and owns a career split line of .277/.350/.473.
Cashman said during this month's General Managers Meetings that he "absolutely" expected to tender Cervelli a contract offer, so it is likely that Cervelli and Romine will compete next spring to serve as McCann's backup, with Stewart becoming more of a non-tender candidate.
The timing of the deal was somewhat of a surprise. McCann and his agent, B.B. Abbott, were not expected to make a decision until at least the Winter Meetings next month in Orlando, Fla., with the Rangers, Angels and Red Sox also considered to be in play for his services.
Instead, ESPN New York reported that McCann visited with the Yankees on Tuesday, and that was enough to convince him to jump at an offer that represents the largest annual value contract ever given to a free-agent catcher at $17 million per year.
The Yankees' signing of McCann is the first splash in what the club expects will be a busy offseason, reorganizing after New York was absent from postseason play for just the second time in the last 19 years.
Team president Randy Levine had said earlier in the week that Cashman was engaged with "five or six free agents," a group that included McCann as well as second baseman Robinson Cano, who remains one of the Yankees' top priorities.
However, the organization's public statements sent a clear message to Cano's camp that it was preparing to fill other needs while waiting for Cano to back down from his reported demands of a 10-year deal worth in excess of $305 million.
In addition to Cano and McCann, the Yankees are believed to have targeted an array of starting pitchers that include Japanese standout Masahiro Tanaka, while engaging the representatives for infielders Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta, plus outfielders Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo and Curtis Granderson.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.