Rays: Why James McCann would be a great fit

MLB’s Mark Feinsand highlighted free agent James McCann as a great fit for the Tampa Bay Rays – and he could be on to something.

James McCann has spent the last two seasons at the Chicago White Sox after leaving the Detroit Tigers as a free agent. He represented the American League in the 2019 All Star game. McCann was nominated for a Gold Glove this year due to being in the top three for Defensive Runs Saved in the American League but lost out to the Cleveland Indians’ Roberto Perez.

Although he is open to a return to the White Sox, it is not guaranteed. The catcher has been linked with a few teams already, including the Mets. If the Rays are interested in McCann, they will have to be competitive and produce an enticing offer.

McCann spoke to the White Sox Talk podcast recently and explained his desire to be a starting catcher. “I definitely think that there is a lot that goes into that, being the guy and being able to run the staff. I do feel like that’s something I’ve earned.”

With the Rays looking at their catching options, such as Mike Zunino’s contract option not being taken up, there could well be mutual interest. For the Rays, they would get an experienced catcher who adds value with the bat. For McCann, he would get the starting role that he craves with a team that reached the World Series and has designs on repeating the feat in 2021 with a better outcome.

Using Stathead to compare McCann and Zunino, there is a remarkable difference in their 2020 seasons. McCann batted at .289 while Zunino returned a poor .147. McCann’s .896 OPS, should he deliver a similar number next season, is a huge upgrade on Zunino who produced .598. One criticism of the Rays in the postseason, but not necessarily singling out Zunino, was the ability to get batters into scoring positions. Also, Zunino struck out 37 times in 75 at-bats while McCann produced 30 from 97.

There are two issues that may not make a deal viable: team fit and salary. The first is not insurmountable. The second could well be. McCann will be looking for a decent payday and can command it after an excellent 2020, which may be a stumbling block for the payroll-conscious Rays.