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.