Today, the Braves made two big moves adding position players to the roster: Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann. A quick word about McCann as the majority of this post will be about Donaldson. If your expectation for the catcher position was JT Realmuto or Yasmani Grandal, then McCann is a disappointment. And while I wouldn’t call the McCann signing a disappointment, it does put more pressure on improving other areas of the roster.
This signing would seem to signal to me that they didn’t want to commit the money and years to Grandal, and they didn’t want to give up what it was looking like they would have to give up to get Realmuto. And if that was the case, as it certainly appears to be, then you can’t fault them from looking at the dearth of catching across baseball and deciding to go with a couple of guys — Flowcann or McFlowers, take your pick — that are going to provide some of the leadership that may be missed by the departure of guys like Nick Markakis. That if you can’t get an elite player at the position, get someone who is a strong leader. After all, the Houston Astros carried Brian McCann as their catcher in their world championship year. The Braves have to be hoping that McCann is healthy and ready to return to the three straight years of around a .750 OPS over the disappointing season last year where he only played 63 games and posted a .212/.301/.339 (.640 OPS) line. The Braves will also enjoy a more traditional lefty-righty platoon at catcher vs. the righty-righty combo of the past two seasons. But yes, this does put pressure on improving the rest of the roster.
One guy cost $2M. One guy cost $23M. So obviously the big move today was adding Donaldson. Donaldson is another guy with a disappointing 2018 season, and that’s probably why the Braves were able to get both on one-year deals. Donaldson moreso than McCann, though, has an opportunity to have a huge year and get a long-term contract after this year. Donaldson battled a calf injury last year, and limped to a .246/.352/.449 line last year between Toronto and Cleveland. Before that, he averaged a .946 OPS in 1907 PAs the previous three seasons. And he’s only 32, so it’s not like he’s an aging vet like McCann. Speaking anecdotally, calf injuries can be difficult to recover from. You just can’t get off your calf long enough — ever — to let it heal quickly. I pulled my calf 3 1/2 weeks ago, and I still can’t get it 100%. I can’t imagine what it’s like for a professional baseball player. It’s probably the most annoying injury I’ve had.
At any rate, the Donaldson signing gives the Braves several things. It gives them a middle-of-the-order bat right up there with anyone they could have possibly acquired this offseason. He’s right-handed, which gives some lefty-righty advantages through the middle of the order. And did I mention he’s a one-year deal? Instead of having to go 7,8,9+ years for Machado or Harper, AA perhaps was able to leverage a relationship with Donaldson and maybe even a handshake agreement that he won’t tender a qualifying offer to get Donaldson to come in and bring rain for a year and then get out of here.
He gives us time to decide what we want to do Austin Riley, he gives us time to decide on Dansby Swanson, and it puts Johan Camargo into a super-utility role that he seems to be so perfect for. Heyman speculates as such:
So not only do you improve production at third base, but you also give yourself one of the best benches in the National League with Johan Camargo, Charlie Culberson, Tyler Flowers, and whomever they land to be the backup outfielder. There are just so many reasons to like the Donaldson deal. We shall see about McCann.