Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Texas has several potential needs this offseason. The Rangers could use upgrades at first base, catcher, and left field. They have players who could step in but it seems that Texas needs more offense. Last year Texas pitching was solid across the board and the defense was good. I would say the highlights of the year were Yu Darvish‘s pitching and the Rangers’s defense. Next to Yu generally dominating opposing lineups the most entertaining moments of this past season were defensive plays. Leonys Martin throwing runners out, Craig Gentry making diving plays and the left side of the infield being an impenetrable wall were easily the highlights of the year.
So where does Texas get offense this winter? One option is to go with what they have. Mitch Moreland at first, Craig Gentry in left and Geovany Soto at Catcher. Moreland sported a 95 wRC+, Gentry a 108 and Soto a 114 in 2013. These are essentially average offensive producers. The concern is that these players were able to create this production through selective use. Perhaps by preventing Moreland from facing too many lefties and Gentry from too many righties their production is overstated. If you give them an everyday job they will have to face more same handed pitching and will have to go against better pitching. I am particularly fond of these players so I would like them to succeed but it is hard to imagine that Moreland and Gentry can replace Nelson Cruz‘s and A. J. Pierzynski’s offensive production. It seems if Jon Daniels thinks he needs to improve his offense then he needs to acquire it this offseason. Daniels has some excellent options on free agent market. Texas has been consistently linked Brian McCann among other free agents. McCann theoretically fits nicely in Texas’s offense. He fills a potential need at catcher and provides a left handed power bat to balance the lineup with Adrian Beltre, Alex Rios and Ian Kinsler. Recall that two of the lefties that took many of the plate appearances in 2013 are gone or likely to go. David Murphy has moved on to the Indians and A.J. Pierzynski seems unlikely to return.
Is McCann worth it? He is a supreme offensive catcher. During the 2013 campaign McCann came up with a 122 wRC+ and a 2.7 WAR. The WAR is good for 12th best among all catchers last year which is good considering McCann only had 402 plate appearances. His wRC+ is 10th among all catchers. McCann also has a reputation as good catcher. He is known to both call and catch a good game. Realistically only a few catchers in the game have McCann’s upside. He is a 7 time all-star and owns 5 silver slugger awards. When McCann is healthy he is a top notch catcher whose name belongs in the conversation for best catcher in the majors.
Analysts are concerned about his health history. His 2012 season was by far his worst year with only a 87 wRC+ . This was due to shoulder injury. Besides the 2012 year, however, McCann has been near 120 wRC+ every year. He has also had 20 or more home runs every year but one since his breakout 2006 season. In early seasons McCann consistently hit near .300 with an incredible .333 in 2006, but his average has fallen over time and was a paltry .254 in 2013. In my opinion McCann is a solid hitter but he will not be a true middle of the order bat. McCann would likely be fit in behind Beltre if Daniels does not sign another big time hitter like Carlos Beltran. This is not necessarily problematic but McCann and Cruz are similar hitters in terms of production and, if you still want to order your lineup traditionally, like Ron Washington does, then these two should be viewed as six hole hitters rather than five hole hitters. Of course, Texas Rangers fans have been pampered over the last few years as Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre formed an intimidating one two punch for several years. It seems unlikely that Texas will see a tandem that strong again for some time, although Robinson Cano is on my Christmas wish list, but perhaps JD will bunch several solid hitters like McCann, Cruz or Beltran in behind Beltre.
A key factor in potentially signing McCann is that Jorge Alfaro is several season away from being ready. The most reasonable estimates would put Alfaro in Arlington in 2016 and it will likely take a year or two for Alfaro to really get going at the major league level since catchers often find that their offense lags behind their defense as they learn to call games against major league opponents. This timeline works well with a McCann signing as the backstop is likely to get a 4 or 5 year deal. This means as McCann fades with age he can DH and split time with a developing Alfaro.
McCann is only 29 and appears to be healthy following his shoulder injury. Paying for McCann’s age 29 through 34 seasons for example does not seem to be overly risky. If Daniels believes he needs an impact bat McCann fits the bill. Had McCann been a Texas Ranger in 2013 he would have been the second most productive hitter on the team by wRC+; second only to Adrian Beltre. By WAR McCann would have been the fourth most productive Ranger, tied with Leonys Martin, again this is with only 402 plate appearances. If the price is right I think Texas would be wise to pull the trigger. Adding a top tier catcher and a bat that gives punch back to a mostly punchless middle of the order would be a welcome winter addition.