The Braves have interest in keeping all-star catcher Brian McCann in Atlanta, but they may not have the available funds to do so on the open market this fall, speculates David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
McCann and the club have agreed to hold off on contract discussions until the postseason ends, so when Atlanta does get around to discussing a new contract with the backstop, it'll have to compete with the 29 other teams. The lack of an exclusive window may end up killing the club's chances of retaining McCann, writes O'Brien, because several other teams will likely have much more to offer.
O'Brien believes that teams from both leagues will offer McCann a deal in the Yadier Molina range -- five years, $75 million -- but does not think the Braves will be one of them. Atlanta's payroll has hovered around $90 million for the last five seasons and, with just $43 million in guaranteed salary on the books for 2014, it seems like the Braves would have the money needed to ink McCann. However, with Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, Kris Medlen, Chris Johnson, and Jason Heyward all headed for hefty raises in arbitration, that money dwindles pretty quickly.
The Braves' up-and-coming catchers are also a factor. Rookie backstop Evan Gattis has cooled off considerably after his dominant April, but he and 21-year-old Christian Bethancourt -- who is batting .277/.305/.436 at Double-A -- are still the backstops of the future. And with Gerald Laird inked as the back-up catcher through 2014, O'Brien believes things might get a little crowded behind the plate if McCann stays.
Signing a catcher approaching 30 to a long-term deal is always risky endeavor. O'Brien posits that American League teams -- who have the DH buffer -- are much more likely to take that chance than the Braves or any other National League club, though an NL team with much bigger pockets -- say, the Philadelphia Phillies -- could make a run.
McCann, 29, has reverted to his slugging ways since returning from offseason shoulder surgery in May. The lefty-hitting catcher is batting .274/.348/.495 with 19 home runs in 87 games.