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.

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.