By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Seven-time All-Star catcher Brian McCann was introduced to the media at Yankee Stadium on Thursday as the first piece of a major reloading for the New York team that finished tied for third last season.
“To say this one of the best days of my life would be an understatement,” McCann said after donning a No. 34 pinstriped uniform jersey.
McCann, 29, batted .256 with 20 home runs and 57 runs batted in over 102 games last season for the Atlanta Braves after missing the first 30 games recovering from right shoulder surgery.
The Yankees, winners of a Major League Baseball record 27 World Series titles, failed to reach the post-season last season for only the second time in 19 years with an aged squad beset by injuries and lacking in power.
“Brian McCann’s been one of the game’s great catchers,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.
“We’re hoping that he can come over here and continue the type of production on the offensive and defensive side that he’s provided in Atlanta.”
The deal with McCann, worth a reported $85 million over the first five years, gives the Yanks a much-needed offensive upgrade behind the plate.
New York used four catchers last season, who accounted for a major league-low eight home runs from the position, while McCann has strung together six seasons in a row with 20 or more home runs in the pitcher-friendly Atlanta ballpark.
While the catcher figures to be an important improvement, the Yankees vow they have just begun addressing their problems.
“This winter we have a lot more needs than I’m used to experiencing,” Cashman said.
“Some years we’re more active than in other years. We have to be this year.
“We added an important piece here but it can not be the only piece. We have to add more pieces to be able to make some noise.”
Former Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has been widely reported to have agreed on a seven-year, $153 million free-agent deal to join the Yankees, but Cashman would not confirm it as a done deal yet.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said the team was still hoping to sign their free-agent second baseman Robbie Cano.
“We’re still talking. We’re still a distance apart, so we’re just going to have to see,” Steinbrenner said. “Robbie is one of the best players in baseball and he’s been a great Yankee.
“We’re just going to have to keep plugging away.”
Steinbrenner and Cashman both said they hoped to reach an agreement to bring back Japanese starter Hiroki Kuroda, but even that would leave them short in the pitching rotation.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi expects further roster moves but he was all smiles on Thursday in welcoming McCann to the Bronx.
“He’s an offensive catcher that has the ability to work a pitching staff,” said Girardi, a former major league catcher himself. “He’s a complete catcher.
“We feel he has a chance to be extremely productive.”