The Mets officially introduced James McCann this afternoon with a press conference held over Zoom. The club recently inked the 30-year-old to a four-year deal worth $40.6 million.
Sandy Alderson called McCann a “significant improvement” over the past years at the position, specifically praising the catcher’s constant commitment to refining his game and calling that a big factor when signing him. He lauded his overall game both behind the plate and in the batter’s box, noting that he is a right-handed hitter where the lineup is left-handed heavy. He also applauded McCann’s noticeable defensive improvements behind the plate over the years. Jared Porter, who was not yet hired as the team’s general manager when McCann was signed, added that McCann impacts the game on both sides of the baseball and expects the veteran to positively impact the culture in the clubhouse.
When McCann took the virtual podium, he thanked the organization and expressed his excitement at joining the team. He said that the Mets were high on his list from the start and quickly climbed to number on the list, specifically because of the direction the franchise is heading in. He spoke to the excitement of players, specifically calling Marcus Stroman’s name, as having a big impact on his decision, and said that he’s noticed Steve Cohen’s positive impression in the media and on Twitter. Alderson said that he didn’t feel conversations with McCann were really about selling the team to him, but more about passing along additional information, and that the excitement in the team right now is self-evident.
In terms of his game, McCann said, “I always pride my game on my defense” and has felt that way from the beginning of his career, saying that he believes a catcher can impact the game ten times as much defensively as they can offensively over the course of the season. When confronted with the fact that his defense needed help, he began working with Jerry Narron to readjust and fix set-up and his framing, and he plans to keep in contact with him for the remainder of his career. David Capobianco recently visualized some of these improvements.
He spoke to the trust he develops with his catchers, saying that he does everything he can to get to know what makes a pitcher tick, which often happens by sharing in-game experiences with a pitcher and seeing how they react. He referred to himself as an ‘easy-going’ catcher and doesn’t plan to be cookie cutter with the pitchers, so he can cultivate his approach to individual pitchers if needed. McCann also views analytics as very important, but also is not afraid to use his eyes in-game and make decisions based on things he’s seeing in specific instances.
He has not yet reached out to any Mets pitchers—he wanted to wait until the news became official—but he plans to speak with them individually after the holidays. He also mentioned to already having a relationship with Brad Brach and with Steven Matz from training in the past, and said that he knows about the positive clubhouse culture from past communications with them. He is also friends with Jeff McNeil, but has not reached out since the signing.
One thing that was abundantly clear about McCann is his confidence in his ability and in his belief that the Mets are the right team for him. He called being non-tendered by the Tigers following the 2018 season the best thing to happen to him, since it allowed him to view the shortcomings in his game and improve upon them. Alderson noticed that about him as well, saying that the organization has confidence in his work ethic. Offensively, he said he tried too hard to emulate the great hitters he came up with on the Tigers, and after being non-tendered, he learned to be content with who he was as a hitter without trying too hard to be those other players. From there, he opened up his stance, lowered his hands, and noticed his offensive game improve immensely.
McCann also welcomed the challenge of playing on the big stage of New York. In order to combat the pressure, he said that that his high expectations on himself should allow him to manage playing in the Big Apple. Interestingly, he noted that Citi Field is one of two big league ballparks he had never played a major league game in during his career, although he did appear on the field in the 2013 Futures Game during All Star weekend. From his brief exposure, he said that he loved the stadium and the atmosphere.
Alderson fielded a couple of general questions at the end of the press conference, specifically about his and Porter’s approach for the rest of the offseason. Alderson said he remains focused on free agency, as a lot of good players remain on the market without the need to part with any prospects, but he will not shy away from making a trade and remains committed to being actively engaged on both fronts. The reply comes after yesterday’s news that the Rockies are hoping to engage the Mets in trade talks for third baseman Nolan Arenado. When pressed about the position, Alderson said that third base is up in the air and, while the club has J.D. Davis and Andres Gimenez, they will look at “targets of opportunity” if there is a chance to upgrade.