Yankees news/rumors: Gary Sanchez a backup catcher, who’s going to be the starter?

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

When looking at New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez objectively, you see a player who has degraded over the past three seasons. Since his phenomenal 2017 campaign, Sanchez has taken gradual steps downward, and that is clear based on general manager Brian Cashman’s postseason comments.

The Yankees were set to reevaluate the catcher position, based on Sanchez’s .147 batting average and 36% strikeout rate this past campaign, and his defense didn’t fare much better. In fact, he was quickly replaced by Kyle Higashioka during the post-season and even became Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher. That says a lot about Sanchez’s deficiencies and if the Yankees can truly rely on him moving forward.

The Yankees are expected to tender Sanchez a new contract, but given the reluctance to invest in him long-term, it should suggest that he cannot be trusted as a starting level player.

The fact that Higgy, Sanchez’s back up, stole reps through the season and even supplanted him in the playoffs is telling. Some may cough up Sanchez’s porous season to new mechanics and anomaly, but the reality is, this has been an ongoing story for the homegrown talent. The Yankees have two more seasons of control before they have to make an ultimate decision on his future.

The New York Yankees could roll with Higgy more often:

One thing is clear, Kyle finished the season with a .250 average, hitting four homers and recording 10 RBIs. He had a 0.5 WAR compared to Sanchez’s -0.1. In addition, Higashioka’s defense is superior at this point, but giving up on Sanchez is something the Yankees are desperately trying to avoid. They don’t want to invest big money in a player like JT Realmuto or James McCann, but it’s becoming clear that they might not have a choice after the 2021 season.

I still believe that Cashman has faith in Sanchez to return to his best self, but it is going to take a lot of work and optimism to get him there.

Ultimately, batting average is a bad statistic to use when evaluating Sanchez, who lives and dies by the home run. During his monster season in 2017, he struck out 23% of the time, and since then has seen a 13% increase, which is simply unacceptable. His batting mechanics have become more flawed as time goes on, and he must find a way to improve offensively, to at least mask some of his defensive issues.

I believe the Yankees will roll with a hot hand approach, playing Sanchez and Higgy as a cohesive unit from a general perspective. They don’t want to invest big money on a catcher after a financially tough season, so expect to see more of the same in 2021.