A common thought at the beginning of the offseason was that the Mets were likely to make a serious run at free agent catcher J.T. Realmuto. Those feelings only seemed amplified once multibillionaire owner Steve Cohen officially bought a controlling interest in the club.
As it turns out, Realmuto hasn’t been the Mets’ primary target as they seek to upgrade the catcher position. Instead, they’ve zeroed in on James McCann, and it sounds like they’ll lock him up soon.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Wednesday afternoon that the two sides were getting close to an agreement, and Andy Martino of SNY.tv followed up Thursday by saying it "won't take much to get it done soon." It’s expected to be a four-year contract for McCann, likely for around $40 million.
Worth noting is that Rosenthal, Robert Murray of FanSided and Jon Heyman of MLB Network all said after Rosenthal’s initial report Wednesday that the Angels were still in the bidding for McCann. However, it seems pretty clear that the Mets are in the driver’s seat and a deal could be imminent.
McCann has had an interesting career. He batted just .240/.288/.366 over parts of five seasons for the Tigers before they non-tendered him after the 2018 campaign. The White Sox scooped him up and he turned into an All-Star in 2019 with a .789 OPS and 18 homers. The Pale Hose signed Yasmani Grandal last offseason, but McCann still played a lot in 2020 and posted an .896 OPS with seven homers. He also greatly improved his pitch framing while with the White Sox.
Handing out a four-year contract (if that’s indeed what it turns out to be) to a 30-year-old catcher with a relatively limited track record of success seems like a bit of a risky move. However, if the Mets’ “savings” for targeting McCann over Realmuto allows them to go after George Springer and/or Trevor Bauer, perhaps that’s the best way for them to attack the offseason.
Speaking of Springer, Bob Klapisch of the Newark Star-Ledger reported Wednesday that the Mets were "moving closer" to landing Trevor Bauer "and/or" Springer. He hears that Cohen prefers Springer of the two, while president Sandy Alderson likes Bauer. Martino noted after Klapisch’s report that the Mets were “not close” to a deal with Springer. It does appear that crossing the finish line with McCann is the club’s priority at the moment, but they seem very much in the thick of things with Springer and Bauer.
Eaton Returns to Second City
Not long after the White Sox made their trade for Lance Lynn official, they announced that they had signed a new right fielder. It’s a familiar face.
Almost exactly four years to the day he was traded to the Nationals for a package that included Lucas Giolito, Adam Eaton agreed to return to the south side on a one-year, $7 million pact. The deal also includes an $8.5 million club option for 2022.
Eaton just turned 32 and is coming off a disappointing 2020 season which saw him post just a .669 OPS, so he’s not the star outfielder White Sox fans were hoping to see their team acquire this winter. He’s traditionally a slow starter, though, so perhaps he would’ve eventually regressed to the mean had there been a full season. Obviously, the White Sox are hoping he can return to being the guy who put up a .377 on-base percentage in his first three years in D.C.
Where Eaton ultimately slots into the White Sox’ lineup could have a significant fantasy impact. If he bats second behind Tim Anderson as many have speculated, that means Yoan Moncada would probably slide down in the order, likely to the six spot. It would also likely mean that Nick Madrigal would still be stuck at the bottom of the lineup.
Adding Eaton would seem to increase the chances that Eloy Jimenez spends a lot more time in the designated hitter spot, with Adam Engel perhaps handling left field. Although, it doesn’t sound like the team is done shopping this winter. They were also connected to Joc Pederson and Michael Brantley prior to landing Eaton.
Rangers Buy Lowe
The Rays finally decided they just had too many Lowes in their organization.
On Thursday, Tampa Bay shipped Nate Lowe, first base prospect Jake Guenther and a player to Texas for infield prospect Oselvis Basabe, catcher/outfield prospect Heriberto Hernandez and outfield prospect Alexander Ovalles. MLB.com's Mark Feinsand was first to break the story.
Lowe broke out for the Rays in 2018, when he hit a robust .330/.416/.568 with 27 homers and 102 RBI across three levels, peaking at Triple-A Durham. He was terrific again in a return trip to Durham in 2019 and also slugged seven long balls in 50 games for the Rays.
With all of the additions the Rays made last offseason, Lowe didn’t get much of an opportunity in 2020, although he was solid when he did play. All told, he’s popped 11 homers and put up a .770 OPS in 245 plate appearances with the big club.
In Texas, Lowe figures to slide right into the first base job for the rebuilding Rangers. He could also see action at third base and/or the designated hitter spot.
Globe Life Park in Arlington played very pitcher-friendly in its first year, as it was actually the most difficult stadium in which to hit a home run by quite a wide margin. That’s obviously not ideal for Lowe, nor is being part of a lineup that could be among the league’s worst. Still, he’s at least assured of regular playing time now and is firmly on mixed league radars for 2021.
Santana Signs with Royals
The White Sox weren’t the only AL Central club making moves this week.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network first reported Tuesday afternoon and the Royals shortly after confirmed that they had signed former Indian Carlos Santana to a two-year, $17.5 million contract.
Like Eaton, Santana struggled to get going during the truncated 2020 season, finishing with a .199/.349/.350 batting line, eight homers and 30 RBI over 60 games. The 34-year-old did do his usual thing from a walks perspective, drawing a major-league leading 47 free passes while striking out just 43 times.
The Royals finished 26th in baseball with a 7.8 percent walk rate and 27th with a .309 on-base percentage last season, so infusing Santana’s patience into the lineup should pay dividends. Santana’s lowest walk rate ever is 13.2 percent, and his lowest OBP was last season’s .349 mark.
Santana had his best offensive showing in 2019 with a .911 OPS and 34 home runs. He’s not likely to reach those heights again, but Kansas City would surely take something around his career .812 OPS.
The Royals have been one of the few teams to be relatively busy this offseason, as they’ve also added Mike Minor to their rotation and Michael Taylor to their outfield. At least Santana’s OBP skills will balance out Taylor’s … lack of OBP skills.
Quick Hits: Jayson Stark of The Athletic has reported that the Phillies are "in the advanced stages of serious talks" to hire Dave Dombrowski as their new president of baseball operations … The Pirates selected right-hander Jose Soriano from the Angels with the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft … The Mariners have signed Chris Flexen to a two-year, $4.75 million contract … Mark Saxon of The Athletic has reported that a recent conversation between the Cardinals and Yadier Molina's agent, Melvin Roman, didn't get far, with the player's side deeming the Cards' offer “ridiculous” … According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Blue Jays are among the teams to show interest in free agent third baseman Justin Turner … The Giants have signed Matt Wisler to a one-year, $1.15 million contract … Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Wednesday that he expects Jordan Hicks (elbow) and Miles Mikolas (elbow) to be on a normal schedule at the start of spring training … Jon Heyman of MLB Network has reported that Joe Musgrove and Adam Frazier are the two Pirates players whose names have come up the most in trade talks. Jason Mackey had reported previously that the Pirates have had talks with the Yankees about Josh Bell and Jameson Taillon … Dan Hayes of The Athletic has reported that the Twins "remain engaged in discussions" with Nelson Cruz and have also checked in on Kyle Schwarber, Adam Duvall and Michael Brantley … Athletics general manager David Forst said Wednesday that he counts A.J. Puk (shoulder) among the members of next season's starting rotation. Forst also named Jake Diekman as the team’s top internal candidate to take over as closer … According to MLB.com's Jon Morosi, the Rangers and Astros are among the teams showing interest in free agent catcher Jason Castro … The Korea Baseball Organization's NC Dinos have officially posted Sung-Bum Na … After entertaining offers from major league clubs, Mel Rojas Jr. has signed a two-year deal to remain with the Hanshin Tigers of NPB .