McCann agreed to a 5-year, $85 million dollar deal with the New York Yankees on Saturday that carries an option for a 6th year, valuing the contract at $100 million. He joins veteran pitcher Tim Hudson, who left the Braves to sign a two-year deal with the San Francisco Giants on Monday.
Not re-signing McCann and Hudson, while good for the Braves pocketbook, cripples the leadership presence in the locker room, where the average age of the 40-man roster has dropped to 26 years old. And with discussions surrounding a trade of second baseman Dan Uggla, the team will presumably look to Freddie Freeman and perhaps Mike Minor to shoulder the load in the clubhouse.
Offensively, the Braves are hoping that rookie sensation Evan Gattis can continue to improve upon his 2013 campaign, where he clubbed 21 homers, 21 doubles and 65 RBIs in 106 games. Atlanta is also awaiting the arrival of top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt, a 22-year-old Panama native, who finished the season with the big club after playing 90 games in Double-A Mississippi.
McCann provided a spark for the Braves after spending the first month of the season on the disabled list. After debuting on May 6, McCann finished 2013 with a .256 average and 20 home runs.
McCann's ferocious competitiveness was also on full display this season after he established himself as an enforcer of the unwritten rules of the game. Incidents against Carlos Gomez and Jose Fernandez prove McCann's toughness and demonstrate why he demands such an admiration and respect among his teammates.
Since 2006, McCann's first full season in the majors, he has averaged 21 home runs and 28 doubles, been voted to 7 All-Star games and is a 5-time Silver Slugger. And while his defense behind the plate may leave a lot to be desired, McCann is one of baseball's best at calling games and he remains a favorite among pitchers.
At $17 million per season, McCann's price was undoubtedly high, placing him among the top 25 player salaries based on 2013 statistics. Braves management found themselves unwilling to make a 5-year commitment of that financial magnitude to McCann.
But the Braves are now missing a proven leader, an offensive producer and a fan favorite who, at 30, still has several years of baseball left to give. Let's hope the Atlanta Braves are not haunted by his departure in the years to come.
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