NEW YORK -- Brian McCann recognized that his days in pinstripes might be numbered late last summer, as Gary Sanchez enjoyed a Ruthian first act on the big league stage to steal the Yankees' starting catcher honors from the 12-year veteran.
McCann loved watching Sanchez slug, but the 32-year-old made it clear that he still hoped to catch regularly. The Yankees accommodated that wish on Thursday, shipping McCann to the Astros with cash considerations in exchange for Minor League right-handers Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. Abreu was the Astros' seventh-ranked prospect by MLBPipeline.com.
"Mac has done a great job for us, but with the emergence of Gary Sanchez, he's now in a backup role and a part-time DH when he's not catching," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "It made sense if we could find something that would be workable. Houston stepped up and I think all parties got what we wanted."
McCann batted .235 with 69 homers and 227 RBIs over his three years in the Bronx. The Yankees will pay $11 million of the remaining $34 million McCann is owed through 2018, which Cashman said should offer additional flexibility to boost their lineup this winter.
Cashman acknowledged that he has made contact with the agent for Yoenis Cespedes, CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen, and also mentioned that the club could have interest in bringing Carlos Beltran back after dealing the slugger to the Rangers in advance of the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"Getting additional money to play with from our end gives us a lot of choices in trades and the free-agent market," Cashman said. "Does it mean we're absolutely going to do something? No, it doesn't mean we have to reallocate it immediately, but we're going to be open to doing so."
Abreu, 21, was 3-8 with a 3.72 ERA in 24 games (16 starts) with Class A Quad Cities and Class A Advanced Lancaster in 2016. Over three Minor League seasons, Abreu owns an 8-13 record with a 3.16 ERA in 51 games (37 starts), and Cashman said he could start at Class A Advanced Tampa next year.
Guzman, 20, combined with the GCL Astros and Rookie-level Greeneville to go 3-4 with a 4.05 ERA in 13 games (eight starts) in 2016. He held opponents to a .196 (29-for-148) batting average, including a .154 (8-for-52) mark against left-handed hitters. He is expected to pitch for Rookie-level Pulaski or Class A Charleston next year.
"Both of these guys are right-handed starters with big power arms," Cashman said. "They're guys that project to potentially be starters in the big leagues; if not, they can collapse in the bullpen. They're high-octane individuals, with real exciting 95 to 100 mph type ability."
Thursday's trade cements Sanchez as the starting catcher for 2017, and Cashman said that Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka could compete to serve as the backup in Spring Training.
Clubs started showing interest in McCann as early as August, according to Cashman, as Sanchez blasted an impressive 20 homers on the way to finishing second in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting. Among those teams were the Astros and McCann's original club, the Braves.
Cashman remained in contact with McCann's agent, B.B. Abbott, who recently said that McCann was open-minded to a deal but would prefer to approve a trade to a contending team in the Midwest or on the East Coast.
Some teams offered swaps including highly paid veterans, but Cashman said he viewed Houston's prospect package as the most appealing choice because of what it could free the Yankees to do over the next several weeks.
"Now I can pursue a lot of different scenarios for DH or a lot of other various positions that our manager can play with," Cashman said. "I'll stay in touch with our owner [Hal Steinbrenner]. We're going to pursue pitching as well as offense now."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Although McCann should add valuable depth to the Astros' lineup, his fantasy value may dip in 2017. Across his three seasons with the Yankees, the catcher produced 46 home runs and an .802 OPS at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium compared to 23 long balls and a .658 OPS on the road. While McCann should still drive in 70 runs and finish as a top-12 catcher next year, he may fall short of the 20-homer mark for the first time since '07. Back in New York, the departure of McCann will open up additional opportunities for youngsters such as Greg Bird and Tyler Austin. Provided the Bronx Bombers do not fill their designated-hitter spot with a free-agent signing this offseason, both Bird and Austin can be considered late-round sleepers in deep-mixed leagues.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.