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White Sox announce signing of catcher James McCann

The White Sox announced the signing of catcher James McCann Wednesday. The former Tiger joins the club as a complement to Welington Castillo on a one-year, $2.5 million deal, first reported Friday.

McCann, 28, who should help control the running game with an excellent throwing arm, batted .220/.267/.314 with eight homers and 39 RBI in 118 games for the Tigers in 2018. His career numbers in five seasons in Detroit are better — a .240/.288/.366 hitting line and .653 OPS.

The addition puts the 40-man roster at 40.

Castillo is under contract for $7.5 million next season with an $8 million club option for 2020. The Sox traded Omar Narvaez to the Mariners for relief pitcher Alex Colome last week and lost Kevan Smith to the Angels on a waiver claim, creating a need for a second catcher while waiting for prospects Seby Zavala and Zack Collins to develop.

James McCann hits an RBI-double during the ninth inning of a game against the Royals. (AP)

“Long term, we’re still very optimistic on how Zack Collins and/or Seby Zavala will fit in for us,” general manager Rick Hahn said last week. “They’re not ready yet, they’re going to need some more time, and we want to make sure that, as with all the other of our prospects we feel good about, that they’re not rushed.”
Zavala, 25, is expected to open the season at Class AAA Charlotte. He batted .258/.317/.418 with 13 homers and 51 RBI in 104 games split between AA Birmingham and Charlotte
while Collins, 23, the No. 10 overall pick in 2016, batted .234/.382/.404 with 15 homers, 68 RBI in 122 games at Birmingham.

The right-handed hitting McCann will be coming to the Sox off a down year offensively after batting .253/.318/.415 with a career-high 13 home runs in 112 games with the Tigers in 2017. Against lefties last season, McCann batted .176/.229/.284, and the Tigers declined to tender a contract after he was paid $2.375 million.

Defensively, McCann has thrown out 37 percent of base stealers during his career, which is excellent. He has thrown out 33.3 percent (91-273) of attempted baserunners, the best rate among AL catchers since 2014 with at least 300 games caught. His blocking and framing numbers are below average, however.

While it remains to be seen how manager Rick Renteria will have Castillo and McCann share the workload, it’s reasonable to expect Zavala, and perhaps Collins, will get major league time in 2019 barring any setbacks. Zavala, who led Sox minor leaguers in homers two years ago, might be closer because of his age while Collins, at No. 8 in the Sox system, is ranked higher among prospects. Zavala is ranked 22nd.

Both prospects, while still needing polish behind the plate defensively, are thought of enough offensively to get some work at first base.

“It’s more versatility, and it’s something we intend to explore here in the coming months with both Zack and Seby,” Hahn said.

The Sox drafted McCann out of high school in the 31st round in 2008. He attended Arkansas and was drafted by the Tigers in the second round in 2011.