Two teams in the American League East needed catchers this off season and both filled the need within a day of each other last week, albeit using vastly different strategies. The New York Yankees signed free-agent Brian McCann to a five-year $85 million deal. The Tampa Bay Rays re-signed Jose Molina to a two-year deal worth $4.5 million.
And so it goes in the American League East.
The two deals reaffirm the differences between a big market team and a small market team. The difference in living large, and just getting by.
McCann, who turns 30 in February, made seven All-Star appearances in his nine seasons with the Atlanta Braves. He will make approximately $23 million more over the life of his deal than the Rays ($62.7 million) will pay their entire team in 2014. A healthy McCann could hit 25 plus home runs for the Bronx Bombers.
The Yankees passed on matching the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offer of two years and $17 million for Russell Martin last winter, and they suffered through a season with combination of Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine behind the plate.
Clearly a priority for New York was fixing that problem and that’s what you can do with a payroll of $189 million, more if needed.
Molina is 38 and will make $1.75 million in 2014. He won’t hit much, will run as little as possible, but will handle a young Rays pitching staff well (isn’t the Rays pitching staff always young) and is known for his ability to frame pitches, something that carries a premium for the Rays. There was also a financial consideration.
Paying a catcher under $2 million might allow the team to spend a few extra dollars on pitching (David Price ?) or a defensive first baseman, a part of any Rays offseason plan. The team obviously considered Molina the best choice for them. It does not make Molina a wrong choice. More like a necessary choice.
The Yankees build teams with power. They like it at every position in the order and will spend the whatever it takes to get it to the dugout. It’s how 27 World Championships are won.
Pitching and defense are the Rays DNA. The Rays aren’t afraid to give a spot away in the order if it means better pitching or defense. It how 90 win teams are crafted year after year with skinny payrolls.
Different philosophies, but both work and both are necessary for their respective markets.