James McCann Can Be “Deadline Deal” Detroit Tigers Need

May 21, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann (34) celebrates his walk off home run in the eleventh inning against the Houston Astros at Comerica Park. Detroit won 6-5 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
May 21, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann (34) celebrates his walk off home run in the eleventh inning against the Houston Astros at Comerica Park. Detroit won 6-5 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann is showing signs of getting hot, who could be considered a new player after passing in Monday’s MLB trading deadline.

The Detroit Tigers stood pat at the trading deadline that passed Monday at 4 p.m. Considering the high cost of starting pitching, it was probably a wise move for the surging Tigers, who will soon be getting J.D. Martinez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Daniel Norris back from injuries

Some fans don’t agree that getting players back from injury means an instant upgrade, but one player that would be a huge “acquisition” is the continued resurgence of James McCann for the playoff push .

It was just about a year ago that the Tigers’ catcher McCann and shortstop Jose Iglesias got into a dugout shoving match allegedly over Iglesias’ half-hearted effort on a ground ball. Time heals all wounds when teammate argue, so its worth noting that Iglesias’ hustle may have led to the best win of the season for the Tigers on Saturday night. This followed McCann lacing a single to tie the score after falling into a two-strike count (more on that later).

In the hours after the Aug. 2015 skirmish, former teammate David Price, who had been dealt at last year’s trading deadline a week earlier, piped in with his take.

At the time, most Tigers’ fans believed what Price said, viewed Iglesias as in the wrong with the fracas, and that McCann’s future was bright wearing the Olde English D. Fast forward a year and that has gone off-track quickly.

After notching just two hits in his first 15 plate appearances this year, McCann rolled his right ankle while running to first base, and was out of action for three weeks. When he came back, most fans expected him to recapture his 2015 form, but instead saw him recapture the level of play he experienced in his brief stint prior to the disabled list.

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Until recently, McCann has shown only brief flashes, such as when he hit a homer and had three hits on June 3, but his average has hovered at or below .200 the entire season, going to a high-water mark of .215 on July 1. In addition to struggling at the dish, fans have said his defense needs improvement, mainly the subtle art of framing pitches, which is becoming more important for catchers to master in today’s game.

While much has been made about the Tigers’ glaring rotation holes, lack of bench depth, and still middling middle relief, not much has been made about the lack of productivity from the catchers. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has experienced his share of big hits for the team in a backup role, and has become Matt Boyd‘s automatic catcher during his starts, but he still lacks consistency which precludes him from becoming the #1 catcher.

So it makes some sense why the Tigers were rumored to be kicking the tires on Jonathan Lucroy, even though it was perhaps not the most pressing need the team should address if they were going to be players at the trading deadline.

Some theorized that Detroit was only involved to drive-up the asking price for the team they are chasing in the division, the Cleveland Indians, who did in fact trade for Lucroy with a package that included much-heralded catching prospect Francisco Mejia. Ultimately, the Milwaukee Brewers’ catcher nixed the deal because of an eight-team no-trade clause that not only included the Indians, but also the Tigers (Lucroy ended up going to the Texas Rangers).

It is perhaps surprising, even if the Tigers weren’t serious, that they’d be involved with trading for a catcher considering they feel McCann is their catcher for now and into the future. Even if they were posturing, it would seem odd that they’d let McCann hear the rumors, figuring he’d be one of the many pieces that would be paid in exchange for Lucroy.

The swirling trade rumors might have been a good thing for McCann, who showed signs of emergence over the weekend, hitting in five straight games, including three home runs in the last four games. One of those homers was James’ first career grand slam in Sunday’s 11-0 rout to complete the sweep of the Astros and clinch a perfect, 6-0 week for the club.

While his old adversary, Iglesias, will get most of the credit for Saturday’s thrilling win because of the hustle that allowed the winning run to score, McCann had the at-bat of the night. Facing five pitches with two out, he went down 1-2, fouling of the next pitch before lacing the next one into short left field to score a motoring Justin Upton from second base. This tied the score and set the scene for Iggy’s heroics.

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Perhaps this is a sign that McCann is slowing emerging from his season-long slumber. The return of a strong bat in McCann, along with the return of the aforementioned trio of players, will indeed be just as solid “acquisitions” as picking up a journeyman bench guy or a #4 starter for a steep trade deadline price.