With trade rumors surrounding Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens, the Atlanta Braves face a more important issue in the not so distant future: whether or not to keep catch Brian McCann around for the long haul.
McCann, a six-time all star, is signed through the 2012 season and will make $11.5 million in the final year of a six-year, $26.8 million contract signed in 2007. There is a club option worth $12 million for the 2013 season that the Braves are sure to exercise.
The question that many fans want answered is will the Braves offer up a contract to McCann that makes him a franchise player in the form of Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux or if the Braves will trade him away and allow young talent to fill the void.
The team leader who grew up near Atlanta as a kid and is a team and fan favorite, is arguably the third best, if not the best, catcher in all of Major League Baseball. However, the Braves do have a young 20-year-old prospect in catcher Christian Bethancout who has begun to open some eyes in the low minor league levels and fall leagues.
With the ability to exercise the option in 2013, Atlanta does have time to keep and eye on Bethancourt's progree to help make their decision on McCann easier to handle. Should the young catcher continue to show his athleticism and improve his hitting ability, McCann may be on the way out of Atlanta. But if Bethancourt struggles or McCann continues to play at his all-star level, the Braves will be forced to make a major decision.
The good news may be that catchers tend to have a short shelf life. McCann, if he hasn't already, will be in his prime for only a few years which should allow Atlanta to give him a three to five-year contract. A contract of that length would make Bethancourt just 25-years-old at the time the contract expires leaving him plenty of time to have an impact in the majors.
While having prospects and a strong developmental program in the minors may seem like a bright spot for the Braves, this instance it may prove to put Atlanta between a rock and a hard place in just a year or so.
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