Late Sunday night, the New York Yankees forged a mega-trade with the Minnesota Twins, getting a new shortstop, third baseman, and a new catcher, replacing Gary Sanchez. The Yankees, in another move, acquired Tim Locastro, giving them insurance in center field.
To put it plain and simply, the Yankees’ annual postseason pain is over. Each year the Yankees had to make the decision to keep the struggling backstop or to trade him off. In the end, the Yankees continued to support the homegrown catcher.
Sanchez was a Yankee star in 2017, when he hit .278 over 122 games, with a team-leading 33 homers, the most of any Yankee catcher since Yogi Berra. While his defense wasn’t perfect, he performed adequately. Since then, he has struggled both behind the plate and in front of it. He even had mental gaffs that were both embarrassing and painful to watch. Nevertheless, the Yankees held on to their sup-par catcher. That is no longer a question, as he has been traded off to the Twins.
There is probably no New York Yankee player that was more controversial than Gary Sanchez; you either loved or hated him, according to how you saw him. Some saw him as a miserable failure as a backstop, and others saw him as the most powerful catcher in MLB history. As I see it, neither was entirely true, but I will say his improvement in 2019 was remarkable, defensively even though his hitting was not good. In 2020 he elevated horrible to new lows hitting only .147.
Fast forward to the coronavirus shortened 2020 season. Sanchez managed to stay healthy. However, he was nothing short of horrible offensively. On the defensive side of the plate, he has 4 passed balls on the season so far. That equates to roughly 12 in a standard season. All of 2019, in 162 games, he had only 7 passed balls. So, his 2019 defensive improvement has been lost that year. Sanchez has not had an acceptable batting average since 2017. Last season his batting was just .147, his worst season batting average ever. Many fans thought his batting was like a deer in the headlights, uncomfortable and completely lost.
Those fan concerns are now in the Yankees’ rearview mirror. Apparently, the Twins think they know better than the Yankees, announcing that they will use Sanchez primarily as a DH, with some backup catcher duties.
What the Yankees will do to replace Sanchez is still unknown. They have their options by promoting Kyle Higashioka or using newly acquired Ben Rortvedt, which was part of the mega-trade with the Twins. Rortvedt is not a great hitter but is a great defensive backstop. Rortvedt has plenty of time to grow, he is only 24 years old. In this writers’ opinion, Higashioka will be the Yankees’ starting day catcher., with Rortvedt being the backup catcher.