2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Brian McCann

Brian McCann, 2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review

Brian McCann suffered an injury-plagued and unproductive 2018 season for Houston, only appearing in 63 games with 189 AB while sinking to career lows in AVG, OBP, and SLG. As a result he did not hit the benchmarks for starts and plate appearances that would have guaranteed his final contract year with the Astros, and so it was no great shock that Houston declined his $15M option for 2019.

Meanwhile, Kurt Suzuki signed a 2-year contract with the Nats, breaking up half of the Flozuki catching tandem that had been surprisingly effective for the Braves over the 2017 and 2018 seasons. So on November 26 2018, the Braves announced that after five long years of wandering in the wilderness of the AL, Brian McCann was returning home on a one-year $2M contract.

Overall, Brian improved on his abysmal 2018 with a slash line of .249/.323/.412 that was more in line with his performance over his preceding AL seasons. However, he was again bit by the injury bug with two stints on the IL, the first for a hamstring strain in early April, and then for a sprained knee in late August. He was a positive contributor at the plate through July, but his performance declined noticeably as the season wore on, and when he was in the lineup over the last two months it was 2018 redux. In the postseason, his struggles continued going 3 for 16 with one double and one walk. He announced his retirement from the locker room on the day the season died. It was time.

I’ll leave the career retrospective to others who will undoubtedly do a much better job, but I’ll always remember him fondly. Thanks for the memories Brian.

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Author: Kirk H.

Kirk H. is a long-time reader of and occasional contributor to Braves Journal who after all these years is still in possession of most of his faculties. Don't follow him on Twitter (or elsewhere, as that would be kind of creepy).

35 thoughts on “2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Brian McCann”

  1. @coop from prior thread. Riley was a rookie last year and had an incredibly good start. Many high value rookies don’t do that well. The fact that he had a downturn later has no bearing at all on his current or future value. He’s still only 22 and there is no reason to believe he won’t produce over a longer period of time like he did on his intro. His trade value is currently through the roof and, barring some sort of earthquake trade, he will be our starting 3B for many years. Maybe just not this year.

    I support trading him for Arenado because Arenado is a proven commodity both on offense and defense and Riley is still a future commodity. If we only keep Arenado for two years, then, yes, it’s an overpay likely to leave the Braves with a big hole unless CJ Alexander becomes a star. There will be a lot of legitimate pressure to extend Arenado. By then that will look a lot like the Donaldson deal is now. I only support trading for Arenado if Donaldson signs elsewhere and the Braves commit to signing Arenado to an extension (Boras and all considered). IT always comes down to risk/reward and where a deal will take you now and in the future.

  2. Mailbag Questions, Ryan:

    Rightfully, most of the focus has been on adding a middle of the order bat; but what about the bench? Do you see any internal candidates to provide some LH power off the bench, or any FA fits? Duvall looks to be the only real source of pop off the bench, and asking him to face tough RH pitching doesn’t seem ideal.

    What are your thoughts on Arenado? His name is starting to get tossed about, but his splits are dramatically different when you look at the home versus away numbers. Is he a Coors Field product; and how would you go about approaching a trade for a guy who’s home numbers are so much higher?

    Love the podcast, btw. Thanks for answering my questions.

  3. @ 1, Roger,

    I actually have been more positive for several years on Riley than most on here. I still think he is likely to have a good major league career. But the statement

    The fact that he had a downturn later has no bearing at all on his current or future value.

    is crazy. If Riley’s start is the real Riley, then he is Mike Schmidt (maybe Mike Schmidt plus). I agree that his down period is not likely his long term major league projection either. However, it is more likely than his start (and it is not close). ML Pitchers manhandled him after the start. Now a “book” has been developed. Many players can’t beat the new book. Most get a little better. Some don’t get better at all. And a very few completely vanquish the book.

  4. But more to Kluber’s health than say… Cole Hamels? If Kluber has a good season, I can already hear the defense of AA: “Well, 28 other teams also felt the same!”

  5. 5/85 guaranteed with 15 deferred, so DBacks will be paying 14MM/year for 20-24.

    Not bad…but glad Braves didn’t bite.

  6. Yes. I think I’ve lost my mind. I seem to think that Corey Kluber just got traded for basically a flashy relief arm, and the Braves were not interested.

  7. Still have to refresh. And the site won’t save my name and e-mail any more using the flag below.

    I cannot imagine why everyone is so enamored with Kluber and why they think the Rangers got him for very little. The Rangers took on his sky-high salary over multiple years of a pitcher who was already declining and took a big injury hit last year. Personally, I think MadBum will pitch better going forward than Kluber.

    @5 cliff, we’re talking about trade value. From everything I read, Riley’s trade value is extremely high. His youth plus his ability to adapt in the minors with each downturn plus his ceiling that he showed last plus his vastly underrated defense each speaks to a player that is well worth whatever risk there might be. Everyone forgets that he was also a pitcher who threw, I think, 93+ in HS so he has a great arm for either 3B or RF.

    Also, note that on the Trade Values website (baseballtradevalues.com), Riley has nearly twice the trade value as Kris Bryant. That’s factoring in cost, control ,and age, of course, but it still speaks to what the industry feels about Riley.

  8. Roger, what are you even talking about? I think you’re confused on multiple points regarding Corey Kluber.

  9. This offseason is moving so fast. I am still very optimistic that a Donaldson deal gets done. Especially with the possibility that the payroll may go up to the $170M-$180M range. The pitchers are flying off the market. Among the FA, after Ryu, we get to the Julio/Wood/Keuchel types. After Donaldson, the best FA are OF – Castellanos and Ozuna. I’d rather not use the OF to get the “big bat” since we have established veterans already and very hot prospects to come. For me, it’s Donaldson, Bryant, Arenado, some equivalent or go with what we have. I know that probably means Markakis/Duvall batting 4th and Camargo/Riley batting 5th. But I also believe that AA will almost certainly bring in Donaldson or Bryant.

    If Bryant ends up winning his case and is controllable for one year, then he’ll be likely to be had for a Kluber-type deal. One where we would not trade Riley who would replace Bryant if he leaves as a FA. Plus Bryant will certainly get a QO and the Braves get another draft pick back. Then we’ll be able to talk about “what a steal” we got from the Cubs.

    We will be very happy AA didn’t tie up so much payroll in Kluber.

  10. @14 Donny, here’s what MLBTR said about Kluber in their article about the deal.

    “Of course, it’s anyone’s guess whether the 33-year-old Kluber will recapture that level of dominance. Kluber’s initial injury was certainly fluky, as he was struck by a 102 MPH line drive off the bat of Miami’s Brian Anderson. Prior to the injury, though, he hadn’t quite resembled his previous self. Kluber’s strikeout rate was down to just 22.6% in 2019, while his walk rate spiked to 8.9%. His fastball velocity, per Brooks Baseball, sat at a career-low 92.43 MPH, although pitchers tend to pick up velocity as they distance themselves from spring training, a luxury Kluber was never afforded. Kluber’s velocity has trended down consistently in recent years, though, and he now sits about two ticks slower than he did at his 2014 peak.

    Kluber will make $17.5MM next season, and he is under control through 2021 via an $18MM team option (or a $1MM buyout). As Rosenthal notes (via Twitter), Kluber will receive a $1MM assignment bonus once the trade is finalized.”

    With that description, the Rangers can have him. But that was already basically my opinion going back to last year.

  11. I’m still having issues. Have to clear my web history in order to open new thread and the font still jumps down several sizes as soon as I click on anything Braves Journal related.

  12. We will do a lot better by using pitchers like Hamels (or Keuchel) on short term deals while Soroka, Fried, Anderson, Newcomb, and others establish themselves as high end MLB starters.

  13. @Roger You think $17.5M-$18M is sky high?

    Before last season, Kluber averaged over the last 5 seasons 218 IP with a 5.51 K/bb and a 2.85 ERA.

    I think a lot of baseball fans, including the media, are drinking some kool-aid to get over the fact that their teams didn’t acquire Kluber.

    We’re paying $18M for Cole Hamels when we could have paid $17.5M for Corey Kluber this year, and could have cut ties for $1M next year or paid him $18M. That’s a bargain!!

  14. Kluber made 7 starts last year and missed the rest of it, he’ll be 34, and he’s due $17.5M and $18M next 2 years. How much surplus value could he possibly have had?

  15. The Braves haven’t gotten enough flak for not going after Charlie Morton last year. He got 3/$45 from the Rays and was worth 5 WAR last year.

    That topped all of our pitchers except Soroka (5.6) last year.

  16. It makes absolutely no difference what Kluber did for five preceeding years. One year of extreme arm trouble coupled with declining velo makes him worth a lot less. Ryan’s right; there’s not much surplus value and a lot of risk of not being able to return to any sort of form.

    Hamels is very different. He has had no arm injuries and consistent performance including last year. He’s not being added to be an ace. He’s being added to be predictably better than Julio Teheran. For that, a one year $18M deal is worth it with very little risk.

    I think Texas is paying for name value so that fans at home will get as excited about Kluber as you all are, so that they’ll have a positive attitude for the opening of their new stadium. They are taking a big chance not only because they want a good pitcher, but they are buying the name value.

  17. @24 True dat. Charlie would have been a great add and would have negated the need for Keuchel or Hamels. But we don’t know all the details. Maybe Charlie just didn’t want to come back to Atlanta.

  18. The problem is we are no longer in the part of the winning curve where taking a chance on Kluber is necessarily a good idea. When a team is at the beginning of a winning cycle and doesn’t currently have a championship club, taking on a veteran who might reclaim past glory is a good bet. We did it just last year! However, once the club progresses from “hopeful playoff contender” to “world series contender” the bets the team places need to be on players who have good upside AND an acceptable floor.

    JD is a good example just last year. The Barves, coming off a surprise division win, were most people’s 3rd or 4th favorite in the division. A team like that can back a bet that may return 5 WAR and may return nothing at all. What have they got to lose?

    This year’s team is already projecting 90+ wins and we haven’t finished shopping. Now we can afford to go with unproven guys with good upside if they have a high enough floor — that is where the discussion on Riley is — but we can’t afford to bet on upside when the downside is not only nothing, but losing the opportunity to try someone else in the role.

    Hamels makes sense: he has a high floor and his first half shows there is still some upside there. Kluber not only takes money ($opportunity cost!) but guarantees no floor at all at this point. We cannot afford to take that chance.

    Oh, and Kluber is going to cost $18M. Who plays 3rd base then? certainly not Donaldson!

  19. @29 I figured there would be something like that. I also noted that MadBum said he wanted to play in AZ not in GA. I’m not sure there was ever a chance he was coming to ATL. I wonder how the rumors get so far off the mark…..

  20. I haven’t commented in a long time because the front page is frozen in time for me, stuck on the December 6 entry. After ten days of this, I finally manually changed the URL at the top to bravesjournal.us/2019/12/15 to find this new posting.

  21. @28 My dissenting opinion, here, is that I’m not in a position to evaluate Cole Hamels’ floor as being higher than Corey Klubers’. Hamels had a terrible stretch following his return from the IL. Hamels never had a ceiling anywhere close to Kluber’s. Cole Hamels is 36 years old later this month.

    We’re paying Cole Hamels $18M in 2020 when we could have paid Corey Kluber $17.5M +$1M buyout if he tank + whatever the cost to trade would be. For the cost of a B prospect pitcher and something else, I see that as a much better lottery ticket than Cole Hamels.

    So maybe Cleveland had a big change of mind after we signed Hamels, and maybe we were no longer in the market for another ~$18M starter. It’s just exasperating when ours is a team still very much in need of that 5+ K/bb starter who would anchor us in any series.

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