The New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez is certainly in the center of the Yankee conversation to improve the team this offseason. If you thought Sanchez was controversial during the last two seasons, he is even more so in the last weeks following the World Series. Those thoughts from fans to sportswriters have varied from the Yankees have supported their defenseless catcher for far too long and should cut him loose, to the claim they have turned him into a broken baseball player.
Sanchez’s problem is that he is a highly talented player that just doesn’t seem to be able to put it all together to become that Yankee star that the front office always thought he could be. In this writer’s opinion, the New York Yankees have been more than patient with the struggling catcher, and it is indeed time to move on from him. But some disagree. They say he’s still young; give him a chance. I say after five years of hope with only diminishing results, that is enough of a chance. If you keep doing the same thing, don’t expect different results. More on that later.
After a breakout season in 2016 and 2017 in which he was second in the Rookie of the year vote, was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and got MVP votes, he has never regained that excellence. In 2017 he even had the most home runs of any catcher in either league. But in 2018 and 2019, he was off the field with injuries so much that his value to the team dropped significantly. His supporter often saw his lack of playing ability was due to those injuries.
During those years, his batting average dropped, and his strikeouts increased. He had times of increased defense, and times it got worse. At one point, he had the most passed balls in baseball. Fast forward to the 2020 shortened season, Sanchez managed to stay healthy the entire season, but that didn’t help his performance; it only got worse. He ended the season with a batting average at only .147 with ten home runs and an abysmal OBP of just .253. As the season progressed, he seemed totally lost at the plate, just flailing at pitched balls.Â There is even news that he is being shopped.
In the last month of the season, the Yankees and Gerrit Cole found that the matchup of backup catcher Kyle Higashioka worked much better than with Sanchez. In the last weeks, Sanchez found himself sat while Higashioka caught for even more pitchers, and in the postseason, Sanchez was sat even more often even in favor of Erik Kratz.
The YES Network’s Michael Kay stated that â€œI think they broke him.â€ Kay’s rationale was that he should have jumped up and down and created a controversy when being sat in favor of his backup catcher. The fact that he just went quietly into the background shows that he was a broken player.
My take on that is that I have no way of knowing whether he is broken or not, but if he is depressed and “broken,” it’s because no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t hit the ball, not because the Yankees sat him in the hopes of winning a game.
Sanchez got off to a horrible start. In his five July games, he didn’t get a hit or a home run. He did get 10 strikeouts while not walking once. August was a bit better, but his batting average didn’t; he actually hit the lowest of all catchers in baseball at just .056. He did hit 6 home runs in August. In September, he just seemed to fall apart completely, lacking defense and home runs. Fans saw him as wasted space in the lineup for a team that was quickly losing their division. In the postseason ALDS, he caught two games without getting a hit while striking out three times, when the Yankees exited the postseason early again.
Some of my followers have criticized me for being too hard on Sanchez. I believe I may have been too easy on him and think the New York Yankees were as well. The truth be known, I actually like Sanchez and believe he has immense talent and is on the edge of greatness.
When nothing else has worked, I have a plan to give Sanchez one last chance. I believe he truly wants to get better. He is showing that by playing winter ball in the Dominican. Hire Yadier Molina on a one or two year contract and pay him well. Not so much as to be the lead Yankee catcher but to fix Gary Sanchez. In his long career, Molina has always been one of the premier catchers in all of baseball. He knows how to be the best defensively, and he knows how to hit the ball. If anyone can fix Sanchez, it’s Yadier Molina.
On the Yankees and manager Aaron Boone’s part, that move will allow catchers’ platooning between Molina, Sanchez, and Higashioka. This also removes the need to acquire another catcher due to the retirement of Erik Kratz. Although I think this is a plan that might work out well for the New York Yankees, at the same time, it is unfair to Kyle Higashioka, who deserves to be the starting catcher. My reasoning for presenting this plan is that Sanchez has the stuff to be a superstar, “Higgy” is a good catcher but doesn’t have that same potential.