The Gary Sanchez we witnessed in 2020 is one the New York Yankees would like to leave behind. Ever since leaving his mark on the 2017 season with a .278 average and 33 homers, the Yankees have been chasing Sanchezâ€™s ghost. While their faith remains constant, he consistently disappoints with below-average defense and increasingly liable offense.
To finish the 2020 campaign, Sanchez earned a .147 average with 10 homers and 24 RBIs. If thereâ€™s any saving grace over the last few seasons, itâ€™s that heâ€™s hit double-digit home runs each year. The Yankees love his slugging ability, but his strikeout rate continues to balloon, as he landed at 36% last year.
Manager Aaron Boone spoke with the media during his opening press conference on Wednesday afternoon, and he expressed his confidence in Sanchez, who seems to be in a better place at this point in time.
â€œWe had some really good conversations and put some really good things in place that will hopefully allow him to grow,â€™â€™ Boone said. â€œWe demonstrated with our actions we believe in him. He can be a game-changer at the plate when heâ€™s right. Hopefully, this is the year he puts it all together. We have a lot of confidence in that, but weâ€™ve got to get it out of him, too.â€
Surprisingly, the Yankees actually offered Sanchez a raise in 2021, seeing his contract to $6.35 million over one year. This seems to be their final throw of the dart, and if Sanchez canâ€™t elevate his game, they will have to make a difficult decision to move on in 2022. At 28 years old, there is reason to believe he can pick up where he left off in 2017, as consistent injuries and a lack of confidence have influenced him significantly.
To finish last year, Kyle Higashioka actually played more postseason games and even became Gerrit Coleâ€™s personal catcher. Boone was reluctant to name the starting catcher for the 2021 season, but it seems as if Sanchez will have a fresh shot at claiming the rights. However, it is fair to believe he is on a short leash, and there will be a good position battle moving forward.
â€œI donâ€™t have a plan of pairing [Cole and Higashioka],â€™â€™ Boone said during his Zoom call with reporters from Tampa. â€œWeâ€™ll come in with the idea of Gary or Kyle will both work with all pitchers this spring in bullpens and into spring games.â€