Managing Brian McCann’s workload

Heyman: NPB officials travel to U.S. to talk posting system changes
Contract snafu leaves lefty Omar Luis exposed in Rule 5 Draft
(Marc Serota/Getty)
(Marc Serota/Getty)

At some point soon — probably next week — the Yankees are going to finalize their agreement with catcher Brian McCann. They will add one of the best backstops in baseball at a substantial cost, reportedly $85M across five years with a vesting option for a sixth year. They’re clearly expecting big things out of him and why wouldn’t they? He’s been one of the most productive hitters of the last decade or so, especially relative to his position. Catchers who hit like this are rare.

Because the Yankees invested so much in McCann, they’re likely to look for ways to control his workload behind the plate in an effort to get as much out of him as possible. They want him to catch for all five years of the contract because that’s where he’s the most valuable — McCann is just another guy at first base or DH — even though it may not be realistic. He turns 30 in February and a five-year contract covers the years when most catchers turn into pumpkins, especially guys who have been starters for a long time. All that squatting behind the plate and all those foul tips take their toll.

McCann was a workhorse throughout his career with the Braves. He made his big league debut at age 21 and was an everyday catcher by age 22. From 2006-2012, his age 22-28 seasons, he started at least 113 games behind the plate each year and led all of baseball with 944 games caught total. He was limited to 91 starts at catcher this past season only because he missed April following offseason right shoulder surgery. That’s a lot of wear and tear and the team knows it. They don’t want their new addition to be a full-time DH by year three of a five-year deal.

Thankfully, that DH spot gives the Yankees a little bit of flexibility. It allows them to keep McCann’s bat in the lineup while getting him out from behind the plate for a day. Obviously other players like Derek Jeter will need to rotate through that DH spot — I really don’t like the rotating DH in general, but it’s a necessity for this roster at this point — but there should be enough starts available for McCann throughout the course of the season. Remember, he’s going to be the catcher first and foremost. DH is just an alternative for a day, nothing more.

The Yankees faced between 52-61 left-handed starters in each of the last five seasons, so a straight platoon with presumed backup Frankie Cervelli would limit McCann to roughly 100-110 starts behind the plate next year. That’s a bit below the 123 starts at catcher he averaged from 2006-2012 and it seems like a decent target to me. He could DH another 30-40 games — he will need some full days off of course, catching is hard — and that would get him in the lineup 140-ish times a year.

Sounds like a good plan, right? Well, platoons rarely work out as intended, especially for catchers. Blame injuries and hot/cold streaks and sorts of other unpredictable stuff. At some point next year the Yankees will face nine right-handed starters in nine days, something like that, and that will throw a wrench into everything. The Yankees also might not want to admit their shiny new $85M toy is a platoon player just yet. That stuff does happen. They could run McCann out there everyday against both righties and lefties at first just to see what happens. He did hit lefties from 2010-2012 (104 wRC+), maybe 2013 (72 wRC+) was a blip.

There’s an awful lot of stuff to consider when laying out a plan to keep McCann productive and behind the plate over the next half-decade, including his preferences. McCann might hate being the DH and that would be a factor in how they use him. Ultimately, the team owes him big bucks over the next five years and they should figure out the best way to keep him at catcher for as many of those year as possible. I think that 100-110 starts behind the plate number sounds pretty good because he would still get the majority of the games at catcher while having his workload reduced a bit from recent years. Coming up with a plan that works will be much easier said than done and it will be important. McCann’s going to be here for a while. The Yankees have every reason to look after his long-term well-being.

Heyman: NPB officials travel to U.S. to talk posting system changes
Contract snafu leaves lefty Omar Luis exposed in Rule 5 Draft
  • mitch

    Using a platoon would also eliminate pitcher-catcher combos which is something we’ve seen quite a bit with Girardi.

    • pablos ham sammich

      Using a sausage would also eliminate pitcher-catcher combos which is something we’ve seen quite a bit with Girardi.

      • hogsmog


  • Mark Teixiera – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    So he hasn’t even officially signed or even played a single game in a Yankee uniform and we are managing his workload? LOL

    If he is only catching 100 games a year, what is the point of paying him all that money? If he doesn’t catch 130-140 games this year, something has gone very very wrong.

    • Nick

      So if he doesn’t set a new career high in games caught, something has gone “terribly wrong”? LOL. Give me a break. He’s 30 years old and they just invested a TON of money in him. Managing his workload is a way to protect that investment so that he is physically CAPABLE of catching in the latter half of the contract. If he catches 130 games, Girardi needs to have his head examined.

      • jjyank


        I’d rather have less games at C for McCann in 2014 if it means more in 2017.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Pretty much all of this.

      • Rupe

        Not to mention that with a lightened load, some near-ready prospects can get acclimated to the bigs without the burden of over-performing everyday.

      • Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

        He has caught 136 games as of 2010. He has shown the ability to catch that many games. 50+ games of Cervelli or Romine? No thanks I am good with that. Managing his workload is important but babying him isn’t the answer either. You’re acting like the Yankees signed a 35 year old catcher not a 29 year old one.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      If he catches 100, DH slops 40, and hits like a fucking madman (or even just a slight madman), I don’t think you’ve got much to worry about.

      You try squatting like that several hours a day. I can’t even hold a plyo squat for more than a minute. :)

      • Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

        Yeah I don’t think I would mind, but I think if we signed him to catch, he should be the catcher.

  • I’m a looser baby so why don’t you kill me?

    Fear of the Day (FotD™): nothing of note will happen between now and the winter meetings, making for a very boring two weeks.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      That’s why eating a lot of turkey and getting very sleepy helps.

      It’s possible, especially if Beltran really is supposedly “next” and is saying he needs a couple of weeks to decide. I imagine all the other OF candidates hang on what happens with him.

      You may still see a starter added before then, or something that gets us a 3B. Nothing really holding that back right now. If they’re going to wait for Tanaka, that’s probably foolist. That needs to be a separate, smaller, bag of money placed next to Robbie’s stashed back of money.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Foolish AND foolist. ;)

    • jjyank


      I don’t consider a couple of weeks of inactivity in a still relatively early offseason to be much of a fear. Unless a few more big names come off the board in that time frame, but I’m not holding my breath.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I, for one, think it’s good that the Fear of the Day is subsiding a bit in intensity. By next week, it’ll be “they’re out of tomatoes.”

        • jjyank

          Good point.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Shooting for the sky here but, if Gary Sanchez actually develops as hoped, having the regular guy at first or DH those final two years gets mitigated a bit.

    Of course, Gary Sanchez will get gored by a bull while playing in a winter league before this all happens.

  • Darren

    When has Jor Girardi, or any other manager, managed the workload of a Tier 1 hitting catcher like McCann by using a platoon system?

    I’ve never heard of that before, ever. It sort of sounds good in theory, but in real life, it will never happen.

    McCann will get his time off behind the plate based on, in order: (1) DAY GAMES AFTER NIGHT GAMES (really the most important factor of all), (2) General wear and tear, (3) Pitcher’s preferences for the back-up, (4) Platoon splits.

    I don’t diagree that the Yankees will want to manage his starts behind the plate but barring injury (which is a huge variable of course), they’re paying him to catch 125 games behind the plate each of the next 3 year, plus DH him another 20 games a year.

    • Darren

      “Jor Girardi” is Joe’s Norwegian evil doppleganger, who will apparently be managing the Yankees in 2014.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Uf dah!

    • Mike HC

      Good points. It also could all go out the window when we are fighting for the division/playoffs the last couple months of the season.

  • Dr. TJ Eckelberg

    I’m inclined to agree with you. I think of McCann as sort of the perfect solution with Gary Sanchez in mind. This gives Sanchez 2 years (this and next) to develop, a half a year of apprenticeship, and ready to take over full time in ’17.

    The other guys (Murphy, Romine) can get their cups of coffee and help the big league team, and also be trade fodder, especially if Murphy hits the cover off the ball this year.

    I think I’m an optimist about this stuff, but I think that this sets up the perfect solution at C for the next 5-7 years (potentially).

    • Dr. TJ Eckelberg

      Ugh, replyfail. This was supposed to be in reply to fish-fingers post.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I think it does.

        I’m all for creating lanes for youngster for work their way in, and it both gives us a potential premium player in McCann while allowign the opportunity for Sanchez to remain the long-term answer.

        Murphy hitting the tar off the ball could benefit him, and the Yanks, in various ways. It may earn him more reps at third in order to see if that’s actually a thing. It may get him more value as a trade chip for a piece that fits better.

        I think Romine, in the end, either beats out Cervelli in camp or becomes DFA/trade fodder. I guess he could return to AAA, but I don’t see the point there other than backing up Murphy.

        • Caballo Sin Nombre

          I forgot that Murphy could wing it at third. Just got a surge of endorphins at the thought. A guy who is an average hitter, a slightly-below average C, and a marginal 3rd baseman would have value as a super-sub.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            If he truly becomes this slasher gap-type hitter, at a high rate, and can play a decent third, he can man third every day as far as I’m concerned. If.

  • MannyGeee

    This should be titled “Who will CCs personal catcher be for the next 3-5 seasons”. The platoon makes all the sense in the world in a bubble, however we know Girardi’s answer to this riddle already…

  • nycsportzfan

    I think Francisco Cervelli’s energy and bat are perfect bench option to Brian McCann. That should 100pct be our catching duo this yr.

    • Chris

      So what do you do with Romine then? The kid showed he was turning it around the last few weeks there and he is much younger and more highly regarded than Cervi. I like Cervi a lot too, but you can’t just throw out prospects after one bad rookie season.

      I’d much rather let Romine and Cervi share the games McCann doesn’t catch, let Romine learn from them and see what kind of player he is. If he turns out to be good you can save him for when McCann gets injured/becomes a full DH or trade him for a better player. Throwing him back in the minors at this point will not help his development and basically just means throwing away a legitimate prospect for nothing.

  • Dalek Jeter

    You guys are all under the impression that McCann is actually going to be the full time catcher. Joe hates offense first catchers, they (in the form of Jorge Posada) stopped him from being a regular in the MLB. He much prefers the defense of Chris Stewart. That combined with the dirty pictures Stewart has of Girardi, Hal, and Cashman together will insure that McCann is our DH/BUC for the entirety of Chris Stewart’s career.


    • Mike HC

      Definitely funny, but it would have been funnier if I didn’t know that “rotating DH” spot is going to burn a hole in Girardi’s pocket and entice to DH McCann, and start that defensive catcher more than he should. It is going to take everything in his power to not give in.

  • Mike HC

    Is it just me, or whenever the Yanks start talking about limiting peoples workloads, they always get hurt anyway.

    Having him catch 100-110 games, while working in one of our young guys for the rest, does sound like a good plan though.

  • Hardy

    I don’t understand the fascination with the rotating DH. McCann is projected for a wrC+ of 112. Jeter for 97. These guys are good hitters relative to their position, but not as a DH. If they need rest, let them rest. But don’t make them part of a below average DH rotation!

    I would rather have McCann catch 110 games then have him cach 100 and DH for 40 more.