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McCann's the man for Braves

McCann's the man for Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Brian McCann has lived in Atlanta throughout most of his life, and it appears he'll continue playing there through at least the end of the 2012 season.

Late Thursday morning, the Braves announced that they had agreed to terms on a six-year, $27.8 million contract extension with McCann that includes a $1 million signing bonus and a club option for the 2013 season.

"We've got a special guy here and we recognize that, so we did something special," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said. "We did something we don't normally do, because we don't ordinarily have players like this come along."

According to McCann's agent, B.B. Abbott, there are escalators that could take the value of the contract to $29.8 million. If the club option for the 2013 season is exercised, the 23-year-old All-Star catcher has a chance to make $41.8 million over the course of the next seven years.

With this being the case, the Braves have presented McCann with the most money included in a contract extension for a player with less than two years of service. The six-year, $23.45 million deal Grady Sizemore signed with the Indians in 2006 was the previous high.

As for the six-year, $55 million deal David Wright signed with the Mets last season, it was presented when he completed just slightly more than two years of service.

"This is a great deal for both parties," Abbott said. "I was really blown away that the Braves were willing to do this. This isn't something that they've traditionally done with players who have one-plus years of service."

The last time Schuerholz agreed to a long-term deal with a player who had less than three years of Major League service time was after the 1995 season, when he gave Chipper Jones a four-year, $8.25 million deal.

Coincidently, Jones is now represented by Abbott. But at the time that deal was signed, Jones' agent was Steve Hammond, who currently represents Jeff Francoeur.

"We've done a few long-term contracts for young players, but none with this length or magnitude," Schuerholz said. "It's Brian who changed our mind-set.

"He represents our organization in all ways in a fashion that we look for people to represent us. For our organization to make this level of commitment is a reflection of that, and we do it with great confidence and great pride."

Since becoming close friends at the age of 12 while growing up in suburban Atlanta, Francoeur and McCann have been linked to each other. Both made their Major League debuts a month apart during the 2005 season, and they are now regarded as the cornerstones that the Braves will build around for many years to come.

But Francoeur's long-term deal will have to wait. Like McCann, he was approached about a contract extension at the beginning of March. But it's believed the counterproposal by Hammond was nearly double what the Braves originally offered.

Still, Francoeur showed absolutely no sense of jealousy or animosity when he came through the clubhouse doors at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex on Thursday morning. All seemed normal. As usual, the 23-year-old right fielder was wearing a bright smile and walking alongside McCann.

"My agent has talked to [the Braves]," Francoeur said. "But right now, I'm just thrilled to death for Brian. He deserves it. He's worked hard."

When asked if he wished that he could have made the simultaneous announcement that he'd given both Francoeur and McCann an extension, Schuerholz responded: "I'll talk about Brian today. This is his day."

While growing up in suburban Atlanta, McCann dreamed of one day playing for his hometown Braves. Now as he's preparing to get married and start a family, McCann has gained financial security and confidence that he'll at least be able to spend most of his playing career in Atlanta. He'll be just 28 years old when his option year arrives.

"Not many people get to say they play in their backyard and where they went to high school," McCann said. "So definitely Atlanta is where I want to play my whole career."

The highlight of McCann's 2005 rookie season came when he hit a three-run homer off Roger Clemens in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. But McCann really showed his tremendous offensive skills last season, when he earned his first All-Star selection and Silver Slugger Award.

During the 2006 season, McCann hit .333 with 24 homers, 94 RBIs, a .388 on-base percentage and .572 slugging percentage. He led all Major League catchers in homers and slugging percentage, and his RBI total was matched only by the Yankees' Jorge Posada and the Indians' Victor Martinez.

"There's benefit to both sides of this," Schuerholz said. "There's great security for him and his family for a long time with a wonderful contract. There's also security for us to have a player of this caliber in our organization as a cornerstone kind of player. It's rare that we categorize somebody like that at such a young age. But he's a special guy."

"There's a chance that he could outperform his contract," Abbott said. "But this is really a win-win for both parties. When this contract expires, Brian will be just 28 or 29, and at that time he can get another big contract."

McCann's annual salary breakdown over the course of the contract is as follows: $500,000 in 2007, $800,000 in '08, $3.5 million in '09, $5.5 million in '10, $6.5 million in '11 and $8.5 million in '12.

With escalators that are based on points that can be earned with the garnering of Silver Slugger Awards, Gold Glove Awards and All-Star Game appearances, McCann's 2012 salary could rise to $11.5 million.

Showing a sense of unselfishness, McCann requested that the contract be written in a manner that the Braves have the chance to make 2012 an option year. This would be realized if he is unable to attain a certain level of points that have been assigned for his escalator totals.

But based on current projections, there's no reason for McCann to feel concerned about this potential option.

"Just throw this contract aside, I want to be the best catcher in baseball and I want to play for the Braves," McCann said. "This contract is just a stepping stone toward what I want to do in the future."

If McCann continues to progress at his current pace, this contract could prove to be a definite bargain for the Braves. Accounting for all maximized dollars, Atlanta could end up paying McCann an average of $5.97 million over the course of the next seven years.

While he may be leaving some money on the table for future years, this contract provides McCann the long-term financial guarantee that aren't afforded to arbitration-eligible players who sign one-year deals.

In addition, the set salaries offered in this contract give the Braves the opportunity to make more accurate long-term payroll projections.

"Brian's age, his performance last year and the club's willingness allowed this to happen," Abbott said. "This is only something that happens when a club has great confidence in a player."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }