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Agent B.B. Abbott: Brian McCann willing to learn first base to increase playing time

11.21.13 at 9:25 am ET
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Brian McCann has never played a position other than catcher. But that doesn’t mean he’s averse to broadening his skill set.

Free agent catcher Brian McCann is open to picking up first base in order to increase his playing time. (AP)

Free agent catcher Brian McCann is open to picking up first base in order to increase his playing time. (AP)

Agent B.B. Abbott, who represents the free agent, said that his client is open to learning how to play first base and playing some designated hitter in order to spend as much time as possible on the field. McCann is still, first and foremost, a catcher, but in an effort to spend as much time in the lineup as possible, he’s open to both serving as a designated hitter and learning to play first base — a position that he’s never played in his professional career.

“I guess there’s always a first time. [Mike] Napoli and [Buster] Posey were certainly two guys that made the transition pretty well,” Abbott said by phone on Wednesday. “I think it’s attractive that that’s an option out there for him. I think in the very near future, over the next several years, for sure, that he envisions himself being primarily a catcher and then having the ability to stay in the lineup for an additional 50-75 more plate appearances potentially in another role, whether with a National League team at first base or with an American League team at first base and/or DH. He’s in search of additional at-bats to try to maximize what value he has to a team, but I think primarily, at least in his mind, he’s a catcher. I think he certainly would not and will not foreclose any plans or any thoughts that teams might have that might be a little bit outside the box from a standpoint of what his thinking is.

“He gets it,” Abbott added. “He understands that his bat is what is the driving force behind this, but he takes pretty great pride in what he does behind the plate and he wants this to be a focus in this as well.”

In the immediate term, given that injuries limited McCann to 102 games in 2013 (when he hit .256/.336/.461 with 20 homers), as Abbott suggested, serving as a DH and/or first baseman could be a pathway to more playing time. But the free agent’s willingness to learn a position other than catcher, and to serve as a DH, could be more significant for the long term, given the reality that, as a catcher who has made over 1,000 starts behind the plate and who will turn 30 in February, a team that pursues him in free agency might be looking at him as a catcher in the short-term who would eventually assume a growing number of at-bats at either first or DH in order to limit some of the wear and tear that he endures in the later years of his contract.

A team like the Sox, for instance, that has a couple of potential big league-caliber starting catchers in Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart who are expected to be ready for the big leagues in the coming years, could consider a long-term signing of McCann with the idea that he’d be an everyday (or at least primary) catcher for the first two or three years of the deal before moving to a hybrid role as a catcher, designated hitter and perhaps even first baseman, potentially making him a successor to David Ortiz or an answer to a first-base position that, at present, lacks a long-term answer in the Sox organization.

For now, the exercise is a theoretical one. Teams are pursuing McCann because he offers considerable power and solid defense at a position where those traits are in relatively short supply. It remains to be seen where McCann — a career .277/.350/.473 hitter who has averaged 21 homers a year in seven full big league seasons — ends up, or at what pace his market moves.

“We don’t have a timeframe [for McCann to sign],” said Abbott. “I can tell you that in our minds, it could be two days or it could be two weeks or it could be two months. I don’t think that we have a real timeframe in mind. If a team is wanting to accelerate the process, we would certainly engage with them. I’m not saying that would ultimately lead to a deal, but there are a lot of factors you have to consider when it comes to timeframe.

“With Brian, at least in our mind, being out on an island from the standpoint that there are no other catchers who are going to hit in the middle of the lineup based on the career path he’s on from a statistical standpoint, because of that I don’t think we have a real timeframe. I think he’s going to have a bevy of suitors and I think whether that’s done in the short-term or the long-term, I think that’s going to exist for him.”

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