Congratulations to the Astros, who made the first big splash in an otherwise arid offseason Thursday, trading for catcher Brian McCann and, moments later, agreeing to a four-year deal with outfielder Josh Reddick.
They also gave Fantasy Baseball owners their first headache of the offseason.
To be clear, this isn't a disaster by any means. The reaction may seem more intense because of the lack of moves that elicit any kind of reaction, but it's hard to imagine McCann doesn't lose value with this move. He's not the same player he was five years ago, and Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field may have masked further decline. In his three years with the Yankees, he hit .246 with 46 home runs and a .802 OPS at home compared to .225 with 23 home runs and a .658 OPS on the road.
And while I don't think it's ever as simple as "the player he was on the road is the player he'll be in his new home," I also don't like the looks of this:
That's three of the home runs McCann hit this year landing short of the fence in his home park next year. And no, the graphic doesn't account for atmospheric conditions or the fact McCann won't hit the exact same balls in the exact same locations next year. Still, it makes me uneasy.
Making me even more uneasy is the role he'll be playing, and it's not just bad news for him. With apologies to Gary Sanchez, who remains unproven, the Astros have the game's preeminent power-hitting catcher in Evan Gattis, and after his first 30-homer season (by way of a sterling second half), I have a high opinion of him heading into 2017. But guess what? The Astros just traded for a perennial All-Star at the same position.
McCann and Gattis on the same team? We've seen this movie before. It didn't turn out so hot for either player, with each getting about 350 at-bats in 2016. Granted, the Braves didn't have a DH spot to work with, and presumably whichever of Gattis and McCann isn't catching will still get a turn to bat. But the Astros found only 329 at-bats for the other half of their catching tandem, Jason Castro, in 2016. Presumably, they'll want to find more for McCann than that, possibly at Gattis' expense.
Again, we could make too much of it and may even be predisposed doing so just because we need something to react to. It's fair to say the catcher position isn't exactly abounding in bats that could realistically overtake McCann, Gattis or any of the other top options. But it's also fair to say Houston was one of the last places I wanted to see McCann go. I can't downgrade Gattis in any measurable way, but McCann drops two spots in my catcher rankings, from ninth to 11th.
As for Reddick, the deal doesn't make a huge differences for his value. We pretty much know what he's going to offer -- above-average production on a part-time basis -- but now younger players like Derek Fisher, Teoscar Hernandez, Preston Tucker and Tony Kemp have one less avenue for a breakthrough. That's not to say I was counting on any making a major impact this year, but there's value in the unknown.
Of course, there's assurance in the known, and I for one could stand to have a little more of that about now. The sooner these teams begin filling their holes, the sooner we can firm up our plans for next year. With one of the biggest players in the catcher and outfield market now out of the mix, the dominoes should begin to fall.