Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE
In likely his final year on the Braves, a lot of questions remain unanswered about Brian McCann.
A couple of years ago if you asked anyone around the Atlanta Braves who would be the leader of the team and the face of the franchise after Chipper Jones left, to a man the answer would have been Brian McCann. But that is likely not the case today.
As Talking Chop conducts its Fave Brave bracket to determine the fans' favorite Braves player, McCann comes into the bracket without even being one of the top-5 seeds. That doesn't mean that his fans won't rally support for him as the bracket continues this week, but for McCann to be behind five other guys as the face of the Braves is hard to believe.
Most of us begrudgingly know that this may be McCann's final year in Atlanta. He's a free agent at the end of the year, and the economics of his potential contract, the Braves payroll, and the Braves other priorities mean that a contract extension is likely not in the cards.
Now we get news, via Ken Rosenthal, that a rift may have already developed between the Braves and McCann:
The Braves, after McCann underwent an MRI in August, said the catcher had a shoulder subluxation, or partial dislocation. McCann called that diagnosis "false" in an interview with David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying he had a cyst and a frayed labrum. A Braves official told O'Brien that the cyst and frayed labrum were directly related to the subluxation.
The day after the season ended, the two sides still couldn't agree on how McCann should proceed. McCann said he was "pretty sure" he would need surgery, while Wren said, "from what we know, it would not be a surgical repair." [...]
That was one rub, according to McCann's friends. Another was the Braves' decision to start Ross over McCann in the wild-card playoff game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The decision was entirely justified, given the way the two catchers were playing. Ross gave it further credence by going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in the Braves' 6-3 defeat. But two of McCann's former teammates called it "the final straw," given McCann's sacrifice and past accomplishments.
In the article McCann dismisses any thoughts that he and the Braves are at odds with each other. But McCann has certainly faded in importance as players like Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman have emerged. Now with the acquisitions of the Uptons, the future of the club seems to be wrapped around these young players, and not necessarily McCann.
Mac, even injured, does have value, and other teams have and may continue to come calling:
The Braves obviously value McCann, a six-time All-Star with a .279 lifetime batting average and .826 OPS. Wren said the team rejected trade overtures from the Rangers before exercising McCann's $12 million option at the end of October, explaining, "We were not in that mode."
Had the Braves known they would add both Upton's to their lineup, they may have thought differently about that trade offer.
The first month of this season will be telling for the Braves and McCann. He will start the season on the disabled list, continuing his recovery from shoulder surgery, and everyone will get a chance to see how the team performs without him. We may also get a chance to see one of his possible replacements, Evan Gattis, and how he handles (or manhandles) Major League pitching as well as the catcher position.
Depending on the outcome of all those things, the Braves may have a trade deadline decision to make. Could they get more than a first round pick if they traded McCann at mid-season? The team will have to ask themselves if they even want that public relations hit of trading away McCann, as opposed to the gentler parting of ways at the end of the year, as they offer McCann arbitration which he will most likely turn down.
It's easy to talk about trading a player when he's not playing well. A lot will depend on how McCann rebounds at the plate this year. A lot more might depend on how well Evan Gattis plays.