Bill Shanks

Maybe the Braves should bring back McCann

Brian McCann played catcher for Atlanta from 2005-13.
Brian McCann played catcher for Atlanta from 2005-13. Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Braves desperately need a catcher — not only now, with Tyler Flowers out for six weeks, but also for the long-term.

A.J. Pierzynski likely is gone after this season. He’s showing his age this year as a 39-year-old who is struggling at the plate with just a .206 batting average.

The Braves have young catchers in the farm system (Lucas Herbert, Brett Cumberland and newly signed Abrahan Gutierrez), but they are all years away from being candidates for Atlanta.

So here’s an idea. Why not bring Brian McCann back to Atlanta? In fact, here’s a specific trade idea. Why not trade the New York Yankees outfielder Nick Markakis in exchange for McCann?

Rumors have the Yankees possibly selling before the trade deadline. There has been talk they might trade McCann. The Yankees have a young catcher, Gary Sanchez, who could take over.

The Braves let McCann walk three years ago, not wanting to pay big money to a catcher who was set to become 30 years old. That can be dangerous. Catchers can get old quickly.

McCann’s batting average in his two-plus years with the Yankees is just .235, but he has hit better this year (.244) and his on-base percentage is up to .342 — more like his career average.

It’s his power and run-producing ability that would likely interest the Braves. McCann hit 49 home runs and drove in 169 runs in his first two years with the Yankees. This year, McCann has 14 home runs and 39 RBI.

The Braves are desperate for more power. McCann has hit at least 20 home runs in eight straight seasons, and he’s on pace for that again this season. That’s a good sign that McCann, now 32, is still a power hitter.

McCann has two more years left on his contract for $34 million. That’s $12 million more than what Markakis is owed for the next two years. McCann also has an option for 2019 for $15 million that could vest with plate appearances the next two seasons.

So that wouldn’t be that much more money for the Braves to add to the payroll, and they have plenty of financial flexibility moving forward.

The Yankees need a right fielder since Carlos Beltran will be a free agent after this season. Markakis would be a good addition to the Yankees, and he might have more power with the short porch at Yankee Stadium.

Having Markakis in the same outfield with Ender Inciarte and Mallex Smith, two others with little power, has just not helped Atlanta’s offense this season.

The Braves not only need McCann for his power bat, but also for his name. He was a huge fan favorite while he was with the Braves. McCann is a hometown kid. The Braves likely will have Dansby Swanson, another Atlanta product, join the starting lineup next year. Just think of having two popular players like McCann and Swanson together at the new Sun Trust Park.

That would be a huge gesture to the Braves fans who are concerned they may not be watching a competitive team next season. It would help to have someone they love to come cheer for, someone like McCann.

Plus, with all the young pitchers the Braves are counting on, who better to entrust their development to behind the plate than McCann?

This winter’s free agent market has two catchers who could interest the Braves — Wilson Ramos of the Washington Nationals and Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles. But it’s doubtful Washington will allow Ramos to get away, and Wieters (who played at Georgia Tech) might want a longer contract than what McCann has left.

So perhaps the perfect fit is to bring McCann home. He would help the offense, and he’d definitely be another face the Braves could promote at SunTrust Park.

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