Peter Gammons wrote a nice piece on "The Value of McCann" over at his personal blog. He elaborates on the issue many of us have been talking about for a majority of the season, whether Brian McCann will stay in Atlanta or move to another city via free agency.
He comments on Evan Gattis's struggles after his hot start and Christian Bethancourt's relatively slow development with the bat, though he has improved this year. The main takeaway is that he seems to expect that McCann is gone because one of the big money teams, like the Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, Phillies, or Tigers may grab him. One of the Red Sox twitter people I follow, Patrick Sullivan, thinks he could be a great fit in Boston as well.
There is a question of whether the Braves mishandled this situation. McCann has been the best player on the team since he came up from the minors, aside from Chipper Jones. The fact that he is going to hit free agency, and that there is a relatively high chance he leaves to another team, shows that they did not handle the situation perfectly. Sometimes letting top tier talent go is unavoidable, but it was not in this situation. There was an extension to be made, probably a year or two ago, that never happened.
But even so, I would not go as far as to say that they mishandled the situation. Gammons does not say that they did, but he hints at the team spending money in certain places, like with BJ Upton, that could have gone to keeping McCann in his home town.
The timing of the terrible season and injury could not have been worse. Maybe the Braves would have wanted to sign him earlier, but extending a player who has only played catcher at that time has some inherent risks. There are bigger injury risks with catchers than other position players, and had they extended him prior to last year they would have seen their risky bet hurt them in the first season of the contract. Again, they probably could have made a deal at some point in the past few years to keep arguably their best player under contract throughout the course of his career, but the timing just never worked out with the production and health.
At the end of the piece, Gammons says the following.
Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons are the core of a very good team for several years, but take away McCann and maybe they can sign Jarrod Saltalamacchia or some other veteran, maybe they cannot, and they will find they may have underestimated just how good Brian McCann has been.
The end is what caught my eye. I definitely do not think the Braves have underestimated how good McCann has been. The pitchers, the teammates, the front office, they all know how great he has been. The consistency, aside from last year, has been stellar. Being a cog in the middle of the lineup as a catcher for as long as McCann has been is tremendously valuable and I assure that the reason McCann is hitting free agency has little to do with them underestimating his value.
It looks more like everything was about timing and payroll limitations. If McCann leaves, it will be a big blow, but the team is still built well for the future and will be able to sustain the loss. However, the more McCann produces and the more Gattis struggles, the likelihood that the Braves make a more competitive offer to McCann increases. Earlier in the year I said he was nearly gone for certain, but the odds are getting a bit higher each week that he is back next season.