The Yankees have a big decision to make with Gary Sanchez in 2021

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The Gary Sanchez debate is one as old as time, and the New York Yankees are still dealing with the catcher position because of it. Sanchez simply hasn’t been able to establish himself as a consistent offensive option, and his defense has regressed over the past few seasons as well. To finish the 2020 campaign, Sanchez was benched with a .147 batting average.

Kyle Higashioka eventually stole his starting reps, becoming Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher and moving up the food chain during the postseason. He actually played himself into a good spot for the 2021 season, as the Yankees will look for him to continue his hot streak. I don’t believe the Yankees will go out and sign a high profile catcher like JT Realmuto, especially if they aren’t willing to trade Gary Sanchez. However, Sanchez was rumored to be on the block during the trade deadline this past August, which opens up an interesting narrative as we approach the hot stove months.

In the scenario that Sanchez is courted and traded away, you can almost guarantee the Yankees will go out and sign Realmuto, who is the best catcher in the league offensively. This past season, he finished with a .266 batting average, including 11 homers and 32 RBIs. Defensively, he’s also far more efficient and productive. However, he is preparing to shatter records with his pending deal. I don’t think the Yankees are in a place to set another contract record this off-season, especially after Hal Steinbrenner vocalized their loss of income due to COVID-19.

Nonetheless, when it comes to Sanchez, he is entering arbitration and will make $5 million more than earned this year. That will bring his cap hit up to $10 million, which is a bit lofty for a player who was just benched and has endured inconsistencies in every part of his game.

MLB’s Bryan Hoch stated regarding Sanchez:

Sánchez will continue to work with catching coach Tanner Swanson remotely this offseason, as he did during the four-month shutdown. Cashman said that there could be a catching competition next spring, but Sánchez is arbitration-eligible and will be due a raise over the $5 million he earned this year. That’s too much for a backup. I wouldn’t expect to see Sánchez non-tendered, but trade talk certainly would be on the table.

Personally, I think the Bombers will stick to their guns and allow Sanchez to battle it out with Higgy for reps. The issue is, if Higgy wins out, the Yankees simply can’t afford to pay a backup $10 million in 2021. They have to be fully committed to Gary as their starter and feel as though he can be their long-term answer, otherwise making a move on Realmuto is a necessity.