Astros acquire McCann from Yanks for 2 Minor League pitchers
By Brian McTaggart
HOUSTON -- Brian McCann seemed like a perfect fit for the Astros, a left-handed-hitting catcher who could still provide some offensive punch while giving them some veteran leadership. The Astros pulled off a deal on Thursday to acquire McCann, sending Minor League pitchers Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman to the Yankees.
McCann is the Astros' second key acquisition in as many days. The club signed right-handed pitcher Charlie Morton to a two-year contract on Wednesday in a move to add depth and experience to the rotation. Morton threw to McCann as a member of the Braves, and they were part of the same Draft class with Atlanta in 2002.
The Astros are responsible for $23 million ($11.5 million per year) of the $34 million McCann is set to earn over the next two seasons, a source told MLB.com. He also has a $15 million team option for 2019. The signing of McCann means the Astros will say goodbye to catcher Jason Castro, a free agent who was the longest-tenured Astros player (2010, '12-16) at the end of last season.
"It really checks a lot of boxes for us coming into the offseason," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "Coming into the offseason, signing a catcher was a key priority for us, and there were some options out there, but we focused early on McCann and started talking to the Yankees about him.
"It took a little while for the deal to get done, but I couldn't be more excited. He brings veteran leadership into our clubhouse after being on numerous high-caliber teams and working with some great pitchers. He's got a great track record on the field in the way he receives and handles some great pitchers and is good behind the dish as a catcher."
McCann batted .242 with 13 doubles, 20 homers, 58 RBIs and 54 walks in 130 games last season for the Yankees. He appeared in 92 games behind the plate and three at first base. Over the course of his 12-year career, McCann has been named to seven All-Star teams and has won six Silver Slugger Awards. He spent his first nine seasons with the Braves (2005-13) and past three with the Yankees ('14-16).
The 32-year-old will be the Astros' starting catcher, with slugger Evan Gattis getting some at-bats as the backstop when he's not the designated hitter.
"It helps us on a lot of levels because of everything he means to the team," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "When you have a presence like him behind the plate, it does wonders for the pitching staff. He controls guys offensively and brings a real toughness to us. I'm thrilled to get him."
McCann said he waived his no-trade clause because he wanted a chance to play every day.
"That was a big reason I wanted to go there," McCann said. "The team has got a lot of good, young pieces. They're winning baseball. I want to be a part of it, and it all worked out."
McCann said he was only going to catch once a week in New York with the emergence of rookie Gary Sanchez, and with the Astros he will catch more than 100 games.
"I still feel I have a lot of good years behind the plate," he said. "It's one of those things where in New York I was going to catch once a week and DH against right-handers, and I view myself as an everyday catcher, and that was the decision."
McCann has tallied at least 15 homers in each of the past 11 seasons (since 2006). He is the fourth catcher (minimum 50 percent of games at catcher each season) to accomplish that feat, joining Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra and Gary Carter. He also joins Boston's David Ortiz as the only Major Leaguers to hit at least 20 homers in each of the last nine seasons (since '08).
Abreu, 21, appeared in 24 games (16 starts) between Class A Quad Cities and Class A Advanced Lancaster in 2016 and went 3-8 with a 3.72 ERA and 115 strikeouts. He was ranked the seventh-best prospect in Houston's system, per MLBPipeline.com. Guzman, 20, pitched in 13 games (eight starts) with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Astros and Rookie-level Greeneville last season, owning a 4.05 ERA with a 12.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio.
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.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.