Saturday, May 4, 2013

Random thought: Will the Braves trade Brian McCann?

Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann has missed the first month of the season while rehabbing a torn labrum in his right shoulder. But, the six-time All-Star is expected to return to the Atlanta lineup within the next week.

I noted McCann went 2-for-4 with a home run and a single for Class AAA Gwinnett Friday night. In six rehab games between Gwinnett and Class A Rome, McCann is batting .364 with four home runs, nine RBIs and five runs scored. Sounds to me like he's ready.

But here's the problem for the Braves: Rookie catcher Evan Gattis has played well in McCann's absence, belting seven home runs and winning National League Rookie of the Month honors in April.

McCann isn't coming back to the majors to sit on the bench, so what will the Braves do with Gattis? From everything I've read, they intend to use him as a bench bat, maybe giving him some starts in the outfield or at first base. Makes sense. You don't want to demote a guy who has been a productive player for you.

But here's my question: Has Gattis done enough to make the Braves believe he is their catcher of the future? And, if so, will they trade McCann, who is in the last year of a seven-year contract that will pay him $12 million this season?

Or, do they look at Gattis as nothing more than a former 23rd-round draft pick on a career hot streak? Will they look to resign McCann, who is hardly old? He's 29, but he is coming off his worst season in 2012 and a fairly significant injury.

If I were the Braves, I don't think I'd give McCann the $12 to $15 million per year he'll likely command in free agency. That's too much money in my mind for a catcher. That said, if I were the Braves, I would not trade McCann. I'd hang on to him, play for this year and hope he's healthy enough to be a critical piece in a drive toward an NL East championship. If he walks at the end of the year, so be it.

But what if they do decide to deal McCann? Which teams need a catcher?

Well, start with the Yankees, who have half their team on the disabled list and have Francisco Cervelli getting the majority of the starts behind the plate. Anytime a left-hander power hitter becomes available, you have to believe New York will be in the hunt.

Maybe Detroit? Doesn't it seem like Alex Avila always breaks down by the end of the year? Never underestimate Tigers owner Mike Ilitch. The octogenarian wants a World Series title before he dies and will spend any amount of money to get it.

I think Washington could use an upgrade behind the plate, but of course, there won't be any trades between the Nationals and the Braves. Those two teams will fight for the NL East lead all year.

Then, of course, there's the White Sox. I still don't understand why the Sox believe in Tyler Flowers. Through 28 games, Flowers is exactly who I thought he would be. He's hitting .186 with four home runs and 26 strikeouts in 70 ABs. About once a week, he hits a home run, and that's his sole contribution to the offense.

Can you tell I'm tired of the Flowers experiment? First week of May and I'm already looking around to see if there are any real catchers who might be available in a trade. 

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