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White Sox sign catcher James McCann

The White Sox addressed their need for a second catcher Friday by agreeing to terms with free agent James McCann.

The one-year deal, for a reported $2.5 million, will be announced pending a physical, a source said.

McCann, 28, who can control a running game with the best of them, 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 — .240/.288/.366 hitting line and .653 OPS.

The Sox have Welington Castillo under contract for $7.5 million next season with an $8 million club option for 2020. They 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 (left) is coming to the White Sox. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

“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 this 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 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. His blocking and framing numbers are below average, however.

In any event, McCann serves as an adequate complement to Castillo. While it remains to be seen how manager Rick Renteria will have them 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.