The White Sox would be wise to bring back James McCann for 2021 and beyond.
The Chicago White Sox may pursue some other team’s free agents this offseason, but before doing that they must secure re-signing their own in catcher James McCann and closer Alex Colome. While I fully expect the Sox to keep Colome, McCann is drawing interest from a number of teams and he may be in danger of leaving. The White Sox can’t let that happen.
For one thing, there’s a good case to be made that McCann is the best catcher on the White Sox. At least baseball-reference seems to think so. In the past two years, McCann has beaten Yasmani Grandal in WAR, despite getting fewer at-bats. While he’s probably not a better hitter and lacks the versitality of Grandal (who can switch-hit and play first base), McCann is very likely the best defensive catcher on the Sox. McCann and Grandal received gold glove nominations in 2020. That doesn’t mean they have to pick one or the other. Every MLB team needs two catchers so why not have both of them be really good?
Furthermore, the White Sox need McCann to be Lucas Giolito‘s catcher. Giolito has always pitched better with McCann behind the plate. The one playoff game the White Sox have won in the past decade had Giolito pitching to McCann. The opening day blowout with Giolito going against the Twins had Grandal behind the plate. In 2020, Giolito had a 2.61 ERA when pitching to McCann, and a 5.66 ERA when pitching to Grandal. Those are some very different numbers!
McCann wants to be a starter and the White Sox can’t technically offer him that. What they can do is offer him the money a starting catcher might make and entice him to be the highest-paid backup catcher in baseball history. He would also be playing a crucial role in one of baseball’s best teams for the next several years.
If McCann leaves the White Sox for another team, they will certainly regret it. If he signs with another team, he will probably regret it too. Does anyone really want to see McCann take a big contract with the overspending Angels or Phillies and see them finish 80-82 while McCann’s batting numbers decline in a full-time role? That’s not good for McCann or the Sox.
James McCann has been a wonderful pick up for Rick Hahn and the White Sox. He is or was their best catcher since AJ Pierzynski. As long as they can offer him enough money to get a deal done, they’ll be able to find enough playing time for him to keep him happy.