The Orioles acquired James McCann to serve as a quality backup and a veteran leader for Adley Rutschman. Baltimore snagged the 33-year-old from New York in exchange for a player to be named later. The Mets absorbed $19 million dollars, leaving Baltimore two years of McCann for only $5 million.
The move was met with positive reviews. Baltimore had secured a former All-Star, and McCann appeared to be a quality candidate to mentor Rutschman.
The Orioles obviously felt they could help McCann improve on his .195/.257/.282 line over 61 games in 2022. The backstop had two great years in Chicago before mostly floundering in a Mets’ uniform.
Brandon Hyde and the front office wanted to provide McCann enough at bats to get a fair shake at the plate. They also wanted to see Adley Rutschman play almost every day. Rutschman took his turn as the designated hitter, but McCann received fewer starts than other backups across the league.
Rutschman’s durability led to McCann making some appearances as the designated hitter. The results were not great. McCann hit just .187 over the first two months of the season. He still resembled the struggling player from New York, and the Orioles had better options on the bench. McCann’s role eventually returned to one more traditional for a backup catcher.
His at bats dropped, but so did the expectations. McCann slashed .222/.286/.444 over six games in June before heading to the IL with a sprained ankle. He made a brief rehab appearance and returned to Baltimore around Independence Day.
McCann quietly began to shine as a backup backstop after making his return. He posted solid defense and reasonable framing numbers while exceeding at policing the basepaths. Prior to last night, McCann ranked fourth in all of baseball with a 42 percent caught stealing. He held a respectable +2 Outs Above Average despite his limited playing time behind the dish.
McCann had settled into a groove, but he broke out last weekend against his former team. His 3-for-3 performance with five RBIs stole the show on Saturday.
It was certainly a memorable night for the catcher, but it was more than just a three-hit wonder. McCann entered last night with at least one hit in eight of his last 10 games. The former second-round pick slashed 333/.375/.533 over that stretch. He continued his contributions with RBIs in each of his first two at bats before tallying a single in the seventh last night.
It should come as no surprise that the Orioles benefit when receiving unexpected contributions. McCann has slashed .256/.309/.407 in victories but only 149/.149/.298 in defeats. Baltimore is a better team when McCann makes the most of his opportunities.
He was never going to lead Baltimore to a World Series, but the Orioles always wanted a backup catcher that they could trust. The Arkansas alum appears to be that guy right now. Cedric Mullins’ impending return and Ryan Mountcastle’s return to glory should prevent McCann from another crack at DH, but it could lead to an extra day of rest for Rutschman. At a minimum, it raises the threat level when the veteran spells the youngster.
Baltimore’s offense is full of firepower. Rutschman, Mountcastle, Gunnar Henderson, Anthony Santander and the rest of the gang provide plenty of pop, and the Orioles could likely manage with a traditionally light hitting backup catcher. However, extended success for McCann would provide another boost to an already potent lineup.
McCann began last night with a +0.4 WAR despite holding a miniscule 72 OPS+. A continued spike at the plate, in addition to quality defense, will provide even more value for the Orioles.