Braves face tough call on Brian McCann

Cutting Brian McCann loose could make keeping Michael Bourn a likelier option. Dale Zanine/US Presswire

Many executives planned to tune into Game 7 last night, but a lot are already deep into their winter's work, preparing to restructure their rosters. Some clubs face some really interesting negotiations in the weeks ahead, and among the most compelling decisions is one the Braves have to figure out, about a guy who has been the heir apparent to Chipper Jones as the face of the franchise.

Three months ago, the question of whether the Braves would pick up Brian McCann's $12 million option for next year was something of a no-brainer, given his history as a power-hitting All-Star catcher. But circumstances have changed a lot, and now this is a situation Braves officials must really puzzle over as they weigh all the factors involved. Consider:

A) Although a lot of teams have seen their revenue streams and payrolls rise significantly, the Braves' budget has been mostly stagnant in recent years, in the $85 million to $95 million range. When they made their midseason deals for Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson and Ben Sheets, the additions were made on the cheap. More and more, GM Frank Wren has been required to get maximum return on his dollars.

B) McCann's recent shoulder surgery was more extensive than expected, and although there are no concerns about whether he'll be able to throw next spring, it might take him a little longer to get back his full, aggressive swing with its high-torque one-handed finish. The Braves don't really know whether he will be back in April or June, and even if he is on the active roster, there's no telling when or if he would give them pre-2012 production. McCann hit .230 with 20 homers last season, and by season's end he was limited to platoon duty.

C) Even if the Braves chose to pick up McCann's option for next year, he almost certainly would be gone in 2014.

D) The Braves have other priorities in how they use their money this offseason, most notably in their effort to re-sign Michael Bourn. They've already got some payroll flexibility with the retirement of Chipper Jones, the likely non-tender of Jair Jurrjens and other moves, but if they let McCann go, they'd be in a better position to pursue Bourn or others.

The Braves could try to negotiate a lower salary with McCann, but that seems really unlikely to happen because he'll draw significant interest elsewhere; he'll have other options.

If the Braves decide they don't want to keep McCann, they could simply not pick up the option, or they could try to recoup some value by exercising the option and trading him to a team that could use him as a DH part time, such as the Rangers, the Yankees, the Rays, etc.

The bottom line: The Braves are in a position, with their budget and payroll, in which they need to greatly reduce risk. And McCann's shoulder surgery represents great risk.


• Nothing could have been more surprising in the NLCS than the complete collapse of the Cardinals. They got their backsides kicked, writes Bernie Miklasz. Pete Kozma had maybe the roughest defensive inning in postseason history, maybe even rougher than what Willie Davis had in the 1966 World Series. Allen Craig was neutralized.

Marco Scutaro led the Game 7 romp, writes Henry Schulman. For the Giants, it's on to the World Series, writes Ann Killion.

• The Giants were the hit in the San Francisco bars.

Hunter Pence had a bizarre hit, writes Carl Steward. Brandon Crawford had a great moment.

From ESPN Stats & Information, a breakdown on Scutaro:

A) He swung at 43 pitches and missed only twice (contact on 95.3 percent of swings). That follows a 39-for-39 at making contact in the LDS against Cincinnati. Scutaro's contact rate of 94.4 percent was the best in the majors among qualifying players in the regular season.

B) Thirteen of those swings were on balls out of the zone, and Scutaro didn't miss a single one of those. He fouled off four and went 2-for-9 on the others.

C) Scutaro seven times got a fastball followed by an off-speed pitch. He swung at all seven and went 5-for-5 (fouling off two). Eight of his series hits came on sliders or changeups, versus just six on the heat.

D) He didn't wait around, averaging just 3.3 pitches per plate appearance in the LCS, lowest on the Giants' roster (Sandoval's 3.7 was next). Nine of his hits were within the first three pitches of a PA, and his longest PA in the series was six.

E) He went 6-for-8, plus a walk, with runners on base.

Scutaro ties the record for most hits in a postseason series with 14. The others who share it are Kevin Youkilis (2007), Albert Pujols (2004) and Hideki Matsui (2004). His .500 average for the series is the second-highest in a series in Giants history, trailing only Will Clark (1989).

Elias: The Giants are the fourth team to win a postseason series by winning three straight games against the defending World Series winner after being down in the series, three games to one. The other teams to do that: the 1968 Tigers (against the Cardinals), 1958 Yankees (against the Braves) and 1925 Pirates (against the Washington Senators).

• The Cardinals scored one run or fewer in their final three games of the NLCS. This is the third time in franchise history they have scored one run or fewer in three straight games in a single postseason. The others were in the 1985 World Series versus the Royals and the 1996 NLCS versus the Braves. They blew a 3-1 series lead in each instance, including in the 2012 NLCS against the Giants. In the final three games, they hit .190, with three extra-base hits, and hit just .048 with runners in scoring position.


• After a slow start, Jim Leyland has thrived.

• The Tigers have a good bunch of guys, he says.

• Tony Paul has a breakdown of the Tigers against the Giants.

Jose Valverde says everything is fine now. It would appear that the Tigers' closer situation is going to depend on matchups.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. As teams consider how to allocate their money, they'll look at the upcoming free-agent classes, and although this year is considered relatively lackluster, next year's might be even worse in terms of overall quality. Check it out here. Robinson Cano might turn out to be the most prominent free agent in next year's market, and he'll own the conversation.

2. When John Farrell is introduced today, he'll step into a no-lose situation while following Bobby Valentine, writes Gerry Callahan. By the way, Torey Lovullo is regarded as a favorite to be Boston's bench coach.

3. A pack of eight teams is looking at a teenager from Japan. They are limited by the rules on international spending. One source says the Red Sox and Rangers have done the most work in this arena.

4. Alex Rodriguez can win back favor by embracing a new role, writes Joel Sherman. Scouts are unsure what he has left, writes Erik Boland.

It wouldn't hurt the Phillies to ask about A-Rod, writes Ryan Lawrence.

5. Hiring the right pitching coach is crucial, writes Terry Francona.

6. The Twins have hired some new coaches.

7. Jim Tracy and Manny Acta are among the possible Toronto candidates. The Blue Jays need a skipper who leads, writes Cathal Kelly.

8. An Angels catcher was claimed on waivers.

9. The Rockies hired Mark Wiley.

By the Numbers

From ESPN Stats & Info

1: Runs scored by the Cardinals in their last three games; they scored 18 in the first four games of the series.

7: The Giants are the seventh team to win the LCS after trailing 3-1 in a best-of-seven series.

14: Hits by Marco Scutaro in the NLCS, tied for the most by any player in a postseason series.

19: World Series appearances by the Giants, moving past the Cardinals and Dodgers for second most by any team.

Other stuff

• The Padres formally announced how their fences will be moved, writes Corey Brock.

Mike Aviles says the spring incident with Bobby Valentine affected his teammates more than it did him. His trade was definitely a surprise, he says.

• The Indians settled a tragic wrongful death case.

Brandon Beachy has been working on a throwing program.

• The Rays' farm director got a big honor.

• Frank White's new book has reignited his feud with the Royals.

• I've got an early-morning flight to San Francisco; we'll be back with a full column tomorrow.

And today will be better than yesterday.