Incoming: Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann

Today, the Braves made two big moves adding position players to the roster: Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann. A quick word about McCann as the majority of this post will be about Donaldson. If your expectation for the catcher position was JT Realmuto or Yasmani Grandal, then McCann is a disappointment. And while I wouldn’t call the McCann signing a disappointment, it does put more pressure on improving other areas of the roster.

This signing would seem to signal to me that they didn’t want to commit the money and years to Grandal, and they didn’t want to give up what it was looking like they would have to give up to get Realmuto. And if that was the case, as it certainly appears to be, then you can’t fault them from looking at the dearth of catching across baseball and deciding to go with a couple of guys — Flowcann or McFlowers, take your pick — that are going to provide some of the leadership that may be missed by the departure of guys like Nick Markakis. That if you can’t get an elite player at the position, get someone who is a strong leader. After all, the Houston Astros carried Brian McCann as their catcher in their world championship year. The Braves have to be hoping that McCann is healthy and ready to return to the three straight years of around a .750 OPS over the disappointing season last year where he only played 63 games and posted a .212/.301/.339 (.640 OPS) line. The Braves will also enjoy a more traditional lefty-righty platoon at catcher vs. the righty-righty combo of the past two seasons. But yes, this does put pressure on improving the rest of the roster.

Speaking of Donaldson, it would seem that Brian McCann had already known about Donaldson coming before it was announced. Whoops.

One guy cost $2M. One guy cost $23M. So obviously the big move today was adding Donaldson. Donaldson is another guy with a disappointing 2018 season, and that’s probably why the Braves were able to get both on one-year deals. Donaldson moreso than McCann, though, has an opportunity to have a huge year and get a long-term contract after this year. Donaldson battled a calf injury last year, and limped to a .246/.352/.449 line last year between Toronto and Cleveland. Before that, he averaged a .946 OPS in 1907 PAs the previous three seasons. And he’s only 32, so it’s not like he’s an aging vet like McCann. Speaking anecdotally, calf injuries can be difficult to recover from. You just can’t get off your calf long enough — ever — to let it heal quickly. I pulled my calf 3 1/2 weeks ago, and I still can’t get it 100%. I can’t imagine what it’s like for a professional baseball player. It’s probably the most annoying injury I’ve had.

At any rate, the Donaldson signing gives the Braves several things. It gives them a middle-of-the-order bat right up there with anyone they could have possibly acquired this offseason. He’s right-handed, which gives some lefty-righty advantages through the middle of the order. And did I mention he’s a one-year deal? Instead of having to go 7,8,9+ years for Machado or Harper, AA perhaps was able to leverage a relationship with Donaldson and maybe even a handshake agreement that he won’t tender a qualifying offer to get Donaldson to come in and bring rain for a year and then get out of here.

He gives us time to decide what we want to do Austin Riley, he gives us time to decide on Dansby Swanson, and it puts Johan Camargo into a super-utility role that he seems to be so perfect for. Heyman speculates as such:

So not only do you improve production at third base, but you also give yourself one of the best benches in the National League with Johan Camargo, Charlie Culberson, Tyler Flowers, and whomever they land to be the backup outfielder. There are just so many reasons to like the Donaldson deal. We shall see about McCann.

98 thoughts on “Incoming: Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann”

  1. I write posts as an editor/blogger; I write comments as a fan. So, I’m going to rosterbate here.

    Luiz Gohara, Derian Cruz, and Ian Anderson for Mitch Haniger and Edwin Diaz.

    Acuna
    Ozzie
    Freeman
    Donaldson
    Haniger
    McCann
    Dansby
    Ender

    Camargo
    Culberson
    OF
    Flowers

    Diaz/Minter/Vizzy/O’Day/Sobotka/Biddle/Venters/Winkler

    Ooooooh. Baby.

  2. In my original, I had Newcomb added. Not sure why I took him out. That was partly why I left the rotation blank. Haniger and Diaz have a ton of control so they’ll be cheap for a while, so the Braves would undoubtedly give up a ton to get them, but they’d be worth it.

    Donaldson really is a huge pickup. If you were wanting Harper, this is a very small step below him, and once you factor in the length of the contract, this is by far the best deal the Braves could have made. There’s just simply no reason to think that Donaldson won’t rebound and have a huge year to position himself for a long-term deal next offseason. And whoever got him was going to be the benefactor of that.

    McCann really only makes sense if you land an elite player in RF, IMO.

  3. @1 About zero chance Gohara goes back to the org that traded him away in the first place. Mariners will not be trading Haniger. Diaz, maybe, but probably not. If a trade for Diaz looks anything like a trade for Kimbrel then the Mariners won’t get much back for him and would likely keep him. The best thing we got was a draft choice. So far, what the Padres got hasn’t produced much.

  4. Snit was Mac’s minor league manager when Mac got his major league callup. This is just awesome. Mac may not be a player he once was, but I love homecoming stories.

    I am sure he could have gotten more money from other teams. You can’t say no to a guy like him wanting to come home. Watching him putting on the Braves uniform and smiling and saying “feels right” multiple times…this is just awesome.

    It’s unbeliveable that it is AA, who is an outsider, rebuilding the Braves culture. In AA I trust.

  5. I hope FlowCann doesn’t catch on, because it sounds too much like a redneck version of a Diva Cup.

    Unless it’s referring to us hemorrhaging passed balls, then it’s quite appropriate.

  6. @6 Insert Max Fried.

    The point is not whether or not they will trade them. It’s what is required to create a fair trade. So add Newcomb to my original, and we’re close there. I think I’d rather give two AA or lower level prospect vs. one Newcomb, though, to be honest. And the point is also to show that Donaldson at 3B makes a huge dent in both the lineup and the overall roster.

    I think more of the fanbase should understand that we signed someone with a higher WAR last 5 years than Harper and Machado. We definitely got our guy, Braves fan and all.

  7. FlowMac? Yes I know it sounds like a prostate pill, but it’s got a nice ring to it.

    The Mariners do seem like ideal trade partners. Diaz and Haniger would be… just wow. That’s a combo you sell the farm for. Five years of control each. Two blue chip SPs plus Pache and a couple mid-level prospects?

  8. So obviously I’ve been pro-signing McCann for a while now: https://bravesjournal.us/2018/11/01/who-ought-we-protect-in-rule-5/#comment-2260921

    Basically it’s premised on the following points:

    1) The great thing about 1-year end-of-career contracts is: they’re sunk costs with no psychological baggage. Alex Anthopoulos cut Jose Bautista in a matter of weeks; Coppy did the same with Colon in a matter of months. And Colon cost more than six times as much as McCann costs!

    2) McCann is worth more to the Braves than he’s worth to any other team. Specifically:
    i) He still probably has a few fans and is worth a small amount of specific extra revenue to the team, as a former Baby Brave
    ii) He’s motivated to play well and giddy to be home
    iii) He has a deep well of organizational knowledge that he can give to Albies, Acuna, Soroka, Wright, Anderson, Fried, Gohara, and literally everyone else on the roster other than Freddie.

    3) He brings the basic “veteran leadership” stuff that you could get by signing just about any oldster whose career is nearly toast: he has a world championship, he’s a very smart catcher who understands the game and can teach a lot to younger players, who are likely to listen to him because of his career accomplishments, he loves the manager and will probably be an effective lieutenant for Snitker (something that Fredi Gonzalez really didn’t have).

    In my view, all of that stuff is well worth the price, which is just a $1.5 million premium over the major league minimum salary. You’ll note that I haven’t said anything about his playing skills other than the mild likelihood that he’ll kill the team less on the field because he’s happy to be back in Atlanta. If he hits a lick and can still call a game and frame a slider, it’ll be gravy. Even if not, I think he’s worth the peanuts we’re paying him.

  9. And I don’t think signing McCann means the Braves are done at catcher. It could mean they enter the season with Flowers and McCann, but there’s always the possibility of trading for a catcher if the need arises. That’s the route I would be happy with if it means they will now focus on the OF where I hope Markakis isn’t some 1-year plan.

  10. It’s too bad that Winter Ball is done or we could have gotten Camargo some innings in the outfield. It’s also too bad because Pache played for the Peoria Javelinas whose stadium is about 1 mile from where I’m sitting right now and said stadium is owned by my employer…

  11. Yeah, I expect the Braves are still stealthily in on any Realmuto trade possibilities. Signing McCann is the perfect excuse to let the Realmuto talks simmer for a bit. If anyone in the NL East is to acquire Realmuto, I still think it will be the Braves for an overly hefty price.

    And at this point, I think I’m fine with that. Donaldson and Realmuto would easily be the biggest upgrades any team is going to make this offseason unless someone like the Phillies manages to sign both Harper and Machado lol…

  12. After a day to think on it, my analytic take on the McCann signing (not to be confused with my fan take, which is mostly just “YAY!!! MAC IS BACK!!!!”):

    It’s probably treading water. Coming back home, coming back to the NL(east), and coming back from some injury issues, I think McCann is a reasonable facsimile of Kurt Suzuki, with a little less power. If he can rediscover some luck on balls in play and bounce his BA back up a little, he could make up for that in OBP. (I’m not sure he can do that, because Mac is a categorical case of a guy that shifting defenses has beaten to holy hell re: batting averages.)

    If all we did were hold serve at catcher, I’d be more upset. Not Chief-upset, but far less sanguine. But we clearly didn’t do that. We are likely to see a major offensive bump at 3B with Donaldson, and we still have a real opportunity to improve the Neck corner OF spot with some smart horse trading. I’d far rather we shoot for boring old par at catcher and aggressively look for birds and eagles in the OF and 3B, than vice versa.

  13. @21 I agree with you on catcher vs. OF and 3B. I’ve often said I’d just find a cheap catcher that can throw and call pitches/frame with low BA but some pop and a good eye.

    Flowers doesn’t have enough pop to be that guy.

  14. The press conference with McCann was gold. Especially his DOnaldson comment and reaction after he realised what he had done. I am very happy for BMac to be back. Alex put it perfectly @14.

    McFlow.

  15. Do we still hate the Simmons trade? These hypothetical lineups would seem much more satisfying with Simba in there. *sigh*

    Anyway, Newcomb sort of reminds me of Folty. Maybe he can make a leap, but I don’t think I’d want to count on him as one of my top 3 starters. So, yeah, let’s get a SP too.

  16. @20, I do believe you’re right. I remember Oakland grabbing him from the Cubs a number of years ago and moving him to 3b.

  17. Another thing I like about McCann (outside of my fan feelings) is that he has been where we want our team to go. He’ll be a good presence to have next season if they go deep into the playoffs.

  18. @24 I often fantasize about the Curacao connection that never was. How great would it be to have Simmons and Albies turning two up the middle?

    I’ve been perusing potential outfield candidates and Camargo’s numbers compare pretty favorably for the most part. We could slide Acuna to right and put Camargo in left. I’d rather do that than sign Pollock and his .316 OBP, for example. Obviously a guy like Haniger would be ideal and allow us to use Camargo as a super utility guy.

  19. I hope the Ender plus a prospect pitcher for Kluber deal can come to fruition.

    Then, Acuna to center and find 2 outfielders.

  20. re: the nickname, I would vote for CannFlowers, if only to giggle at the notion of flowers growing out of a butt. Also, if the two of them both somehow have renaissance seasons, that image could double as a way to characterize the unexpectedness of it.

  21. *clears throat to say something unbelievably stupid*

    I know that we’re all interested in getting Greinke, and I’m fully on board with that, but… what if we reacquired Heyward? I’d bet that the Cubs would kick in some serious bread, especially if we tossed them a couple of nominal prospects, like Muller or Wentz.

    Going in a completely different direction, should we see if the Tampa Bay Rays would be interested in trading us Tommy Pham? They got him for not a whole lot, and we can easily give them a good return on their investment.

    Finally… how bad would Wil Myers be in left field? Obviously he’s a horrendous center fielder, but the Padres are clearly desperate to get rid of him, so I can’t imagine that they’d ask the moon, and his general numbers in left are perfectly cromulent.

    Or we could just give Bryce Harper $300 million, and I would be really happy about that.

  22. Alex, you’re a braver (hehe) man than me. I had the thought yesterday (in the context Freddie having an old teammate back) but didn’t dare speak it aloud. The Cubs would have to pay a LOT of that salary.

  23. @30 I wouldn’t have any part of Greinke unless he brought Peralta with him (and maybe a reliever). Then they at least solve two problems.

    I can’t imagine why the Rays would trade Pham who is now their best player other than Snell and who they got for a pittance and pay a pittance. And has loads of control. He’s their perfect player.

  24. @30 and @31–if you’re thinking of former McCann teammate outfielders, why not Frenchy? He would be considerably cheaper than J Hey. Come to think of it, Andruw and BMac were teammates.

  25. For what it’s worth, Heyward’s got five years left on his contract, for $106 million. Let’s say we trade a couple C+ prospects to the Cubs — Patrick Weigel, Huascar Ynoa, and Travis Demeritte, say — and they kick us $36 million.

    At that point, the Cubs have saved $70 million of dead weight and received a few prospects to help rebuild a farm system that has been badly thinned by promotions and win-now trades like Quintana and Chapman. We’ve got a 5-year contract worth $14M per year, for a player whose floor is basically equal to the ceiling for Nick Markakis when we signed him for 4 years / $44 million.

    How moronic would that be?

  26. 3 year averages: BA/OBP/SLG (OPS, OPS+)

    Johan Camargo*: .281/.343/.455 (799, 112)
    Charlie Culberson: .271/.321/.444 (765,104)
    Mallex Smith: .277/.346/.384 (730, 101)
    Ender Inciarte: .287/.342/.391 (733, 96)
    Jason Heyward: .252/.322/.367 (688, 81)

    *only two years in the majors

    Heyward’s a heart play that makes zero sense in the head. He’s a defensive replacement. You can get that production from Lane Adams or Adam Duvall.

  27. Okay, well, yeah.

    But if you throw out 2016 and just look at his dead-cat bounce in 2017-2018, his wOBA is .315, right around the .316 for Albert Almora and just above Jackie Bradley’s .312. On the other hand, it is not possible to consider him even good.

    Ah well.

  28. I like Kakes and he could hold down the 5 spot in the lineup. But he’s old. Michael Brantley has more power and is three years younger. Peralta is about the same age as Brantley and would be even better. Again, Johan’s numbers compare pretty favorably to all these guys and he’s making the league minimum. Same of Riley when he gets called up. Heyward’s contract looks especially bad in comparison.

  29. I did warn you all it would be rampantly moronic.

    I feel ya, man. There’s always going to be this nagging idea that if we could just get him back for cheap… We. Could. Fix. Him.

    But alas. Brad Komminsk. Andres Thomas. Jason Heyward.

  30. I wouldn’t give up any prospects to take on that much of Heyward’ s contract. I think the Cubs would be happy to get out from under it.

  31. @40. Believe it or not I did also think about such possibility. But even if I completely ignore the financial aspect of such deal which is bad enough, I simply don’t want Heyward’s bat in our lineup. His bat is way too unreliable for the trouble.

  32. Alex used to write a lot for Fangraphs. You can find his name in the sidebar and read some of his other writing.

    Alex, are you writing anywhere consistently right now?

  33. It looks like they’re really going after that Cubs/Astros/Dodgers model of versatile position players:

  34. What are we at right now?

    MC FlowCannery
    FF5
    Ozzie
    Dansbo
    Former MVP Josh Donaldson
    Camargo
    Ender
    Ronaldhino

    Backup catcher, Culberson, Austin Riley and ? on the bench?

    They need to get a starting LF to push everyone back down the bench and replace the ? with Camargo.

  35. Good read, Alex.

    Miss you but that gator boy’s doing good, isn’t he?

    Is AA ever going to get us an ace and a hitting fool outfielder?

  36. Despite AA saying otherwise previously, signing Donaldson tells me he wants Camargo playing all over the infield/outfield, which would be the best part of the signing if Donaldson wasn’t so dang good. Sure, Camargo would be an OF if the season started today, but I’m sure they’re going to land at least an outfielder who will get 300+ PAs, if not be a bellcow.

    Austin Riley in the outfield, too? They’re finding spots for guys if deserve to be here. AA is on the forward-thinking side of GMs.

  37. Shin-Soo Choo would make an excellent left fielder in Atlanta. Texas is in deep rebuild and needs arms. Choo’s contract (two years, 42 mil remaining, as a 36 year old DH/OF) would make the prospect requirement less than horrible.

  38. But if you wanted Castellanos, then you shouldn’t want Choo since Castellanos is also a much better hitter and younger. I doubt anyone other than the team already committed to paying him for it will sign up for Choo’s age-38 season.

  39. Also, Choo had a .810 OPS at age-36, and I believe Kakes had a .807 OPS last year. Just proportioned differently.

  40. I’d rather have Castelllanos than Choo. He’s younger and more likely to continue performing at the level we need in LF, offensively. He (or Choo) can be pulled for Camargo or Culberson (or Duvall or Adams) defensively once they’ve done the thing they’re paid to do (hit) and we have a lead.

    Choo is clearly better offensively than hoping Kakes’ late career spike last season was a real thing (he crashed in the second half; it wasn’t.)

  41. BMac can be held singularly instrumental for a change in the rules of Baseball. After the 2017 WS someone at MLB had the bright idea of adding up the number of catcher visits to the mound throughout the seven games.

    McCann had more than all the other catchers combined, driving anyone watching into a frenzy of frustration. Thus a separate fresh pad, a second sharpened pencil now mandatory at every game played. Sic transit gloria.

    Brian McCann
    there is another reason to remember this man
    while behind the plate he was the epitome of grift
    his the blame for the new sordid strangle of the shift.

  42. My barber says AA was on the phone in his chair this morning. He was talking to Seattle about:

    ATL gets
    Diaz
    Robinson Cano and cash

    Sea Gets:
    Swanson
    Soroka
    Allard

  43. I’d rather take the contract & Haniger. Put Albies at SS, play Cano at 2B as long as his stick plays, and put Haniger in the non-Ronaldhino corner OF spot.

  44. Cano’ s stick won’t be the problem. He should stay in the AL. He might be able to play 2B for another season, but his contract goes on and on.

  45. Hey, it’s better than Dansblie Culbwanson.

    Also, formal announcement: I am INCREDIBLY excited about Josh Donaldson. Irrationally, painfully, setting myself up for disappointment excited. I was SUPER excited about the Derek Lowe and BJ Upton contracts and I think I may be EVEN MORE excited about Donaldson.

    We just got a guy who’s probably one of the 15 best players in the game on a one-year pillow contract, we got him for nothing but money, we still have all of our billion prospects and all of our payroll flexibility for 2020 and beyond. If he crashes and burns and is never healthy, our risk is minimal; even if he declines to top 30 (around 4 wins; top 15 is around 5 wins), we got a huge bargain. Unless you get lucky and a very dumb GM gives you a gift, there’s basically no way to acquire a four-win player without either trading very good prospects, paying lots of money, or winning a lottery ticket with someone like Whit Merrifield or Ben Zobrist. Except we just did, just now.

    So pumped.

  46. Any chance at all we pursue a deal for Greinke where we take on the bulk of his contract but don’t give up any elite prospects in return? Julio, O’day and Allard for Greinke or something like that. Or does it make more sense to cash in Ender and one or two of our best guys for a much more affordable (and more dominant) Kluber?

  47. Idea floated by Dimino this morning on 680: Yanks want Harper badly…would need to move Stanton…Braves offer a pitching prospect and tell the Yanks to pay some of his salary…size of the salary relief determines quality of the prospect(s).

    Power problems solved for at least 2 years, and we’d be paying him less than Harper or Machado.

    Fatal flaw: he has a no trade clause and it’s likely he wouldn’t want to come here.

  48. @79 I really think both AA and the Braves have learned from the past experience and are resisting all temptation to commit long term assets (prospects or long term contract) too soon. The problem with Lowe and BUpton is the duration of the contract. That’s the killer. At the same time, that was the market back then for the free agents.

    I agree with you that they were not bad signings at the time. I wouldn’t say I love them back then but the two signings made sense.

    For this case, at only 23m commitment, we got a former MVP who is still in his prime. We all should be super excited with the Donaldson signing.

    The fact that he is a Braves fan and his favorite player is Ronnie Gant…it’s just awesome…

  49. We still have the flexibility to do more now and in the future. Camargo is as good insurance against injury as you’ll find. He’s Josh Donaldson. What’s not to love?

  50. @84 – if the Yankees want to trade away Stanton I bet AA could talk him into coming our way. It’s not likely, but if we could get him and add Kluber and a closer, I think it would be a fairly successful off season. 😉

  51. We still have a 40-man problem. Every guy we designate is going to get lost at this point. Both Sanchez and McCreery got claimed. I guess the Braves were right about needing to add them to the 40-man last year. We need to make a big trade for a SP and/or OF that will take some guys off the 40-man. I realize these guys are not the best and the brightest but, still, the quality of the farm goes down when we lose guys like that. We should be making a few deals like the Pads to trade lesser 40-man guys for young lottery tickets rather than just a handful of cash.

  52. We’re giving a second interview to Phillies’ former pitching coach, who was fired two weeks ago.

  53. To be fair, they did trade Ricardo Sanchez to the Mariners and McCreery to the Dodgers, each for cash. What is done with that cash is obviously the key, but we didn’t exactly lose them for absolutely nothing. Were we not in our international predicament, we could have traded them for international pool space. Not sure if there is an equivalent use of cash.

  54. @91 I’m sure the cash was exceptionally minimal, like $50K. When you DFA someone and they’re claimed, you have little leverage or choice about how to deal with that. If these guys are worth someone putting a claim in on, why not at least turn them into something to bolster the low minors considering the restrictions on international talent?

    I assume that AA stacked the 40-man with the intent of trading multiple pieces and no trade was completed in time before the two FA signings happened. If we were to sign another FA, the same thing would happen again – maybe to Freeman or Parsons or Ruiz or Dayton or some such. I’m not sure why we preferred Dayton over McCreery to be honest.

    The point is that it’s a waste of depth. I’m not sure why they didn’t make the agreements with JD and Mac and then delay the formal announcements until after the Rule 5 draft.

  55. Ricardo Sanchez is the definition of fungible talent. If he takes a step forward he could be a back-end starter — there are dozens of guys like that and none of them costs much.

    When you have a system stacked with prospects, and everyone knows you’re not going to be able to play them all, you’re not always going to extract maximum value from the fringe guys — they’re basically trade throw-ins and DFA candidates. Guys like him are always going to be pushed out.

  56. Frenchy and Glavine are good, and this is good news. Plus, I think Chip enables all of Simpson’s worst tendencies; sticking him with a pro like Powell or Ingram may rein him in a bit. The one thing that sucks is:

    “Powell “will do less games than he did this year but not by a whole lot,” Schiller said.”

    Jim Powell’s the best they’ve got. Honestly, I wish they’d move him to TV and cut Chip loose.

  57. Would y’all mind JC’ing your posts to the new thread. I was in the airport killing time, saw this came through, decided to throw up a post, but then the internet crapped out, and 30 minutes later, the post finally went up.

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