Note: This is part of our Hot Stove Talk series, which profiles free agents and looks at possible trades the Texas Rangers could make this offseason.
Today's player: Brian McCann.
The Rangers have some obvious holes they must fill prior to the 2014 season and catcher is a big one. They took an important step to filling part of that hole on Tuesday, signing Geovany Soto to a one-year, $3.05 million contract (plus incentives). General manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington proclaimed Soto as the "primary" catcher. But that doesn't mean McCann is out of the question. Far from it, in fact. Daniels wouldn't close the door on a high-priced player who could play more than just catcher.
Just because the plan is for Soto to catch around 100 games, doesn't mean McCann still can't factor into this lineup. McCann turns 30 in February and has put together a consistent stretch of solid production. He's had six consecutive seasons of 20 or more homers (and seven of his eight full seasons in the big leagues) and has averaged 73 RBIs in his career. The left-handed hitter has batted .277 in his career, as well, and in 2013 managed 20 homers and 57 RBIs, despite just 356 at-bats. McCann missed a little more than a month to start the season after rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn labrum after the 2012 season.
While he's got what some consider an average arm, teams haven't attempted to run like crazy on him. He's done a good job with the Braves pitching staff and would give any prospective team a solid guy behind the plate. But in the American League, and with the injury issues, if you sign McCann to a 5-year deal, for instance, he likely won't be catching that whole time. You want to protect that investment and the best way to do that is to limit the number of games he has to catch. Perhaps he can DH and play first base (I know he hasn't played there, but why couldn't he learn the position?) and be a big bat in the lineup even when he's not behind the plate.
McCann won't come cheap. Three weeks ago, a GM told ESPNNewYork.com that McCann could command a six-year deal at $100 million. That GM reasoned that McCann could become a DH or first baseman later in his career. But that price seems a bit high. No matter what, you're likely talking about at least a $75 or $80 million investment for McCann. Also, any club that wants McCann will have to give up a first-round pick to get him since the Braves gave him a qualifying offer on Monday.
Why he makes sense: The Rangers need some power in the lineup and McCann, a left-handed hitter works well in this department, especially with so many right-handed bats. One advantage to Soto is that he knows this staff. Well, a long-term deal with McCann would allow him to get to know the staff as well when he does catch and give the staff some consistency with batterymates. McCann has consistently been a guy that hits at least 20 homers and can drive in 90 or more runs when he plays a full season. That's something this offense needs.
Why he doesn't make sense: Money. If the bidding for McCann got so high that it risked busting the Rangers' budget, which isn't likely to go up much in 2014 from what it was in 2013, then it won't make sense. Soto gives the Rangers some options if the salary just gets too high.
Bottom line: It's going to take a sizable investment to land McCann, but the Rangers have to get involved in the bidding. No, I don't think they should sign McCann at any cost. If the bidding gets past $15 million or so a year, that's probably time to back off. But McCann could catch, play first and DH (he could start to learn first base right away), allowing catcher Jorge Alfaro time to get to the big leagues. Alfaro could even learn a few things from McCann as he eventually takes that spot. If McCann shows a willingness to play more than catcher, the Rangers have to show interest and see where it leads. He's a hitter with power that can help this lineup. He's still No. 1 on my list.