After having the greatest catching tandem in team history in 2020, the White Sox are very likely going to see their surplus of All-Star backstops cut in half this offseason.
With Yasmani Grandal signed for $18.25 million a year over the next three seasons, he’s not going anywhere.
That leaves free agent James McCann, who will be going somewhere, just probably not back to the White Sox.
Quite simply, McCann wants to be a starting catcher again. And with teams like the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels all in the market for catching, McCann, who slashed .289/.360/.536 in 31 games in a backup role to Grandal in 2020, is in a strong position to get the starting job he so desires.
“It’s something that I feel like I’ve earned in my career,” McCann said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “I definitely think that there is a lot that goes into that, being the guy and being able to run the staff. I do feel like that’s something I’ve earned. But I’m not burning any bridges. We’ll see what the next few months hold.”
After the season ended, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn didn’t close the door on bringing McCann back, telling reporters, “He’s going to explore his options, and we’re going to be diligent about making sure he understands how he potentially fits and seeing how things go. We’ll just have to see what the coming weeks hold for both of us.”
Trying to predict where free agents will sign in any offseason is challenging enough. Guessing how this winter will unfold is a giant mystery considering the financial losses the league piled up playing a season without fans due to the pandemic. Plus, teams don’t know if or how many fans will be allowed in their ballparks in 2021.
“I don’t know what the future holds. I really don’t," McCann said. "Chicago is not out, but with the pandemic and everything going on, I think this is probably one of the craziest free-agent markets because no one really knows what things are going to look like.
“Something that every player works for is being that six-year free agent. It’s such an accomplishment to stick long enough to become a free agent and have a market. So from a player standpoint, you still expect what you deserve. As far as the pandemic, you understand everything, but at the same time, four years ago, two years ago, no one is even thinking of COVID, so you still have a certain expectation heading into free agency.
“I think my play the last few years has put a value on me, and that’s where we are.”
Since the season ended, McCann said that text messages have been exchanged with the White Sox, “but nothing of the sorts of even beginning conversations about my future.”
In the meantime, the market for a catcher like McCann appears to be robust.
“I think there are several teams (looking for a catcher)," he said. "Every team needs a catcher, especially teams need experience at catcher. I’ve got six-plus years of experience. I’m not going to go into the details of who and where, but there’s always a need for catching, and we’ll see where that takes us.”
If McCann does sign elsewhere, his White Sox career, though brief, just 149 games, will have a special place in his heart. This is where he blossomed into one of the top catchers in the game, just as the White Sox young core became rising stars in the game. Now he could be leaving as they’re poised to become perennial contenders.
“I’ve thought about it,” McCann said of this possibly being the end of his White Sox career. “I definitely think I’ve played a big role in the turning around of the organization and the rebuild. But it’s a business. It’s just the way things roll. I can’t control how money is spent and who gets signed and who doesn’t get signed. I can only control my own personal stuff.
“It means a lot to know that the fan base appreciates what I’ve done. It’s mutual. I definitely appreciate the fan base and everything that Chicago has meant to me.”