Yankees News, 3/8: Gary Sanchez AL MVP? Brett Gardner still has some juice left in the tank

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez
USA Today

The New York Yankees are looking to make a World Series appearance for the first time in over a decade, but they are going to need some influential players to rise to the occasion. Injuries have taken a significant toll on the team over the past few years, so remaining healthy is priority number one.

The Yankees have started off spring training strong, specifically the starting unit. Against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday afternoon, they emerged victorious 4-0, but it was veteran Brett Gardner who was responsible for all four of the Yankees runs.

Gardner recently signed a two-year deal to remain with the Bombers, with the second year a club option. He will earn $5.15 million for the 2021 season, significantly less than the $10 million the Yankees would’ve had to pay if they picked up his option for this upcoming campaign. Instead, they elected to execute a buyout, which cost them $2.5 million. Ultimately, they saved about $2.5 million in the process.

Can Gary Sanchez revive his career with the Yankees?

One player that needs to bounce back is catcher Gary Sanchez, who has struggled considerably the past two seasons. In 2020, he recorded a career-low .147 average and a career-high 36% strikeout rate. It was his worst season to date, and while the sample size was just 49 games, it only proves a compounding regression. However, Sanchez has worked diligently to get into better shape and prepare for the 2021 season.

Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge believes that Sanchez is primed for a big bounceback year.

“Gary’s gonna have a special year this year… Gary’s a guy that can go out there and win AL MVP,” Judge said.

Judge has quietly watched Gary’s work toward a long-term contract, but his regression has hurt the Yankees’ confidence in him. It is nice to see Sanchez’s teammates standing up for him, even when the cards are stacked against him.

“It was pretty amazing to see the improvements he made in just a short amount of time… His want and need to get better is something that’s always impressed me. He’s a hard worker. I don’t think he gets enough credit for the amount of work and amount of hours he puts in at his craft. It’s exciting to see the success he’s had so far in spring training, and looking forward to the season.”