The Orioles Trade for James McCann

McCann was an All-Star in 2019 while playing for the Chicago White Sox

The Baltimore Orioles have acquired C James McCann through a trade with the Mets. The move marks the O’s first trade since the deal that sent Jorge Lopez to the Twins. First reported by Jeff Passan, the trade will send an unknown prospect and cash considerations to the Mets in return for McCann. Additionally, the Mets will eat $19 million of the $24 million still owed to McCann.

Filling the spot of backup catcher was a clear need for the Orioles this offseason after veteran catcher Robinson Chirinos elected for free agency earlier this year. The O’s placed a heavy emphasis on preserving the health of star backstop Adley Rutschman in 2022, and will likely continue to do so by limiting his games at catcher. The acquisition of McCann will lessen the blow of having Rutschman on the bench for certain games.

Although McCann posted an abysmal slashline of .195/.257/.282 last year, there is reason to believe this was a statistical anomaly. McCann’s expected wOBA or weighted on-base average, as well as his expected BABIP or batting average on balls in play, were both significantly higher than his actual wOBA and BABIP. This is important to note as xwOBA and xBABIP are based on recorded exit velocities and launch angles. A good xwOBA and xBABIP suggests that McCann was simply unlucky; he had many balls in play that would usually result in a hit. This means he may experience a “progression” or rise to the mean as the balls with high xBABIP begin to fall.

Furthermore, Mcann adds significant defensive value in comparison to Chirinos. One of Chirinos’ greatest weaknesses was his dreadful framing. In fact, Baseball Savant had him in the 1st percentile for framing. In contrast, McCann is in the 62nd percentile – a massive upgrade.

The trade was met with varying reactions from O’s fans as some see the deal as another lackluster move during an already disappointing offseason. Others see it as an inoffensive move that fills a pressing need. I tend to agree with the latter opinion. I see the McCann trade as a low-risk, high upside move that provides a solid upgrade to a premium position.

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