Steven A. Cohen and his wife, Alex, spent part of their Saturday outside of Citi Field in the cold and drizzle, greeting Mets subscribers dropping by for a bobblehead promotion. At the end of the day, fans had more than just jewelry.
The Mets added two key pieces to the team that Cohen bought for a record $ 2.475 billion last month, filling urgent positions on and off the field. The Mets have selected a new general manager, Jared Porter, an assistant to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who has helped build four championship teams. They also filled their void with James McCann, a freelance agent for the Chicago White Sox, who agreed to a four-year contract worth just over $ 40 million.
The additions have been confirmed by several people within baseball with direct knowledge of the moves, none of whom have been announced by the Mets. McCann must first pass a physical exam before his deal can become official, and Porter and the Mets are said to have finalized the contract details.
Cohen had initially attempted to hire a president for baseball operations and a general manager, but several teams refused permission for their executives to conduct an interview. Sandy Alderson, 73, the former general manager and new Mets president, agreed to take on more baseball-related roles and focus solely on hiring a general manager.
In Porter he found a highly respected and experienced appraiser who is only 41 years old. Porter – a former baseball and hockey captain at Bowdoin College – worked for the Boston Red Sox from 2004 to 2015 when the team won three titles, and was pro-scouting director for the Chicago Cubs when they won the 2016 World Series won.
Porter then joined the Diamondbacks as assistant general manager to Mike Hazen, a former Red Sox colleague. He monitored the development of professionals and players and impressed colleagues with his listening skills, personal connections and passion for scouting.
In reaching an agreement with McCann, the Mets found another highly respected person to play an important role. One of the pitchers McCann will catch, right-handed Marcus Stroman, hasn’t waited to welcome him to the team.
“I’m really excited to be working with @ JamesMcCann34,” Stroman wrote on Twitter. “I’ve just heard amazing things about him as a player and as a person. Guy rakes at the bowl and is always locked behind the plate! “
30-year-old McCann flourished with the White Sox after five ordinary seasons with the Detroit Tigers, who did not give him a contract after hitting .220 with eight homers in 2018. He made the American League All-Star Team in 2019 and continued improving last season when he shared time at the catcher with Yasmani Grandal.
In 149 games for the White Sox, McCann beat .276 with 25 homers and 75 runs. His base percentage of .334 and his slugging percentage of .474 were combined for an OPS of .808, followed by Willson Contreras, Grandal and JT Realmuto catchers with at least 500 record appearances in the past two seasons.
A two-time all-star who has spent the past two years with the Philadelphia Phillies, Realmuto is a headliner in the free agent market and perhaps baseball’s best catcher. The Mets seemed like a natural fit for Realmuto, but the deal with McCann could suggest they are saving their biggest spending on other freelance agents, like Houston Astros midfielder George Springer, Cincinnati Reds starter Trevor Bauer, or both .
Cohen, the majors richest owner, gave fans a pledge to spend more aggressively than his predecessor Fred Wilpon. McCann is the second freelance agent to agree to a multi-year contract with the team, after reliever Trevor May, who signed a two-year deal worth $ 15.5 million to leave the Minnesota Twins.
McCann, a right-handed player, has fought .320 against left-handed and .259 against right-handed for the past two seasons. He started as a catcher for 27 of the White Sox’s 60 games and two of their three playoff games last season while improving his pitch framing stats significantly.
According to Statcast, McCann ranked 56th among 64 qualified catchers in the hit rate on border fields in 2019. Last season he climbed to 8th place out of 62 and forged a strong bond with ace Lucas Giolito, whose earned running average with McCann in eight starts (including a no-hitter) was 2.61, three runs better than four starts with Grandal .
As a Tiger, McCann also worked well with Justin Verlander, whose 3.07 ERA with McCann was the best ERA among the seven catchers Verlander caught for at least 70 innings with Detroit.
“He’s unreal back there,” Giolito told the Chicago Sun-Times in August. “Every single game, every single pitch, he’s 100 percent there.”
Now the Mets will benefit from this intensity as Cohen and Alderson bring Porter with them to continue their search for stars.