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Red Sox join pursuit of McCann as Braves catcher enters free agency

Atlanta Braves’ Brian McCann celebrates hitting a RBI single while playing the Chicago Cubs last season in Chicago. (REUTERS/John Gress)

Atlanta Braves’ Brian McCann celebrates hitting a RBI single while playing the Chicago Cubs last season in Chicago. (REUTERS/John Gress)

It won’t be easy for Brian McCann to leave Atlanta, but at least he seems assured of a lucrative landing spot.

The free agent catcher has already drawn interest from World Series champion Boston as well as Texas and the New York Yankees.

The Braves made a qualifying offer of $14.1 million to McCann by Monday’s deadline, but that was just to assure a compensatory draft choice.

McCann, who turns 30 in February, wants a long-term deal in the five-year range and it is clear that the Braves aren’t going to try to outbid the Duluth graduate’s free agent suitors.

Texas was considered the early leader in the McCann sweepstakes, but Boston may now hold that position.

The Red Sox did not make a qualifying offer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, although they still could re-sign him. In Boston, McCann would be reunited with David Ross, his former Braves backup.

McCann, a seven-time National League all-star, is of more value to an American League team because the designated hitter could keep him in the lineup regularly.

The left-handed batter reached 20 homers for the seventh straight time in eight full seasons with the Braves and has six NL Silver Slugger awards.

McCann, who is represented by agent B.B. Abbott, made $12 million last season in the option year of a long-term deal with the Braves and bounced back well from shoulder surgery until slumping late.

McCann hit .170 in September to fall to .256 for the year and then was 0-for-13 in the NL Division Series loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, striking out all four times up in the elimination game.

“Whatever happens is what’s going to happen,” the Suwanee resident said when asked then about leaving the Braves. “I’m just trying not to think about it.”

McCann, a second-round pick in 2002, has spent his entire career with the Braves. His departure would be a big loss for the clubhouse, as would be the absence of Tim Hudson.

The Braves have expressed interest in bringing back the 38-year-old free agent pitcher, but only at a reduced price. He did not receive a qualifying offer from the team.

Hudson, who made $9 million last year, has received preliminary interest from several other teams, including Kansas City and Cleveland.

The right-hander had his 2013 season ended by a broken ankle in July, but he could be cleared to begin throwing soon.

McCann and Hudson are two of nine Braves free agents. Outfielder Reed Johnson joined the list when he received a $150,000 buyout. He had a $1.6 million option for 2014.

The other six free agents are pitchers Paul Maholm, Eric O’Flaherty, Freddy Garcia, Scott Downs, Luis Ayala and Kameron Loe.

O’Flaherty had Tommy John surgery last May and seems the most likely to remain with the Braves.