Brian McCann joins Yankees with best days likely behind him

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Turning 30 in February, Brian McCann is pretty young as far as free agents go, even though he decided to forgo his first two years of eligibility as part of a long-term deal with the Braves. He clearly has several more years as a regular catcher in his future, and he was worthy of being regarded as the No. 1 catcher on the market this winter before agreeing to a five-year, $85 million deal with the Yankees on Saturday.

All of that said, McCann isn’t on a very good trajectory as he hits age 30. Here are his OPS+s by year:

143, 99, 135, 119, 124, 122, 87, 115

The 87 from 2012 can be discounted, given that he was battling a shoulder injury that required surgery. But even so, that still looks like a downward slope. His career OPS has tumbled five straight years, from .859 after 2008 to .823 now. Last season, he finished at .796.

Fangraphs WAR also shows the same general pattern:

4.3 – 1.9 – 5.3 – 4.0 – 5.1 – 3.9 – 1.7 – 2.7

According to Baseball-reference’s similarity scores, Lance Parrish is the player most comparable to McCann through age 29. And it seems like a great comparison. McCann’s OPS+ through age 29 is 117, Parrish’s was 113. McCann caught 1,046 games through age 29 (11th all-time), Parrish 1,007. Basically, the difference was that McCann had a great season at 22, while Parrish struggled as a rookie.

McCann’s OPS+s: 143, 99, 135, 119, 124, 122, 87, 115
Parrish’s OPS+s.: 86, 112, 121, 100, 135, 119, 100, 118

Parrish went on to have a great two-thirds of a season at age 30, finishing with a 122 OPS+ in his last year with the Tigers. He then signed a big free agent contract with the Phillies and was a bust, amassing OPS+s of 85 and 89 there before being shipped to the Angels. He had just one more strong offensive season in his career, finishing with a 123 OPS+ at age 34. Overall, he hit .244/.317/.416, good for a 102 OPS+, from ages 30-34. Those are the ages McCann will be during his five-year deal with the Yankees.

Of course, McCann could do better; Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey are also on his  list of similars. But it certainly looks like McCann already climbed that mountain. The Yankees need hope it’s a smooth descent and that no cliffs lie ahead.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.