The New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez was tendered this offseason and given a slight raise to avoid arbitration. But earlier in the offseason, general manager Brian Cashman had described his last season as “horrible.” Sanchez is a baseball enigma as he can be one of the best hitters in the game at times, but he can also be one of the worst. Last season he was the worst, hitting only .147, striking out almost half of the time, but hitting a respectable ten home runs. Yesterday in a Zoom call, Cashman, however, continued to support the catcher:
“The fact he’s still with us shows how we feel [about him],’’ Cashman said on a Zoom call Friday. “I know he’s looking forward to proving last year was a fluke. We look forward to him justifying our continued commitment to him. We do believe in him.’’
What puzzles Yankees fans is that, at times, he makes mental mistakes running the bases and missing passed balls. It sometimes makes you think that he doesn’t understand the fundamentals of the game. To reinforce that, after the postseason, when he was allowed to only catch in two games, he publically said he didn’t understand why he was benched. It’s concerning when a player that isn’t contributing doesn’t understand why he has been benched in favor of the better hitting and better catching Kyle Higashioka.
“Whether you were told directly [about being benched], I don’t really care,’’ Cashman said. “You’re pretty self-aware at that point. You had a horrible year on both sides of the ball. You lost your job in the most important time of the season, which is October baseball. I’m not sure an explanation is necessary.”
I’m sure that Sanchez’s bad play is still in the back of his mind, but publically, he has put it behind him with a new contract for the upcoming year. He has both been training at the George M. Steinbrenner training complex in Tampa during the offseason and playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. For the Toros, he had 62 plate appearances, with 2 home runs an improved batting average of .245, but still struck out a quarter of the time.
The Yankees still have to solve the problem of having only two catchers. After the season ended, backup catcher Erik Kratz caught in Deivi Garcia’s Major League debut, hung up his cleats, and retired. The Yankees can’t operate with just two pitchers. If Sanchez or Higashioka are injured, they then have no backup catcher. It is unclear if they will sign or trade for another catcher before the season or use someone from the minors if necessary.
Ottavino surprised by the trade
Adam Ottavino is a smart guy and basically one of the best relievers in the game but after his poor performance, he always knew being traded was an option for the Yankees. However, he was surprised by how it happened. On the day that he was traded he was at Yankee Stadium throwing from the mound when he was informed of the trade. It’s unclear who actually informed him, but manager Aaron Boone was on hand at the Stadium at the time.
Ottavino was probably more surprised than anybody when he found out the trade was with the rival Boston Red Sox; now, he could be facing his formal team as many at 19 times in the coming season. As far as the trade goes, it is only the second time that the two teams have engaged in a trade during this century.
The Yankees have still not forgotten the cheating Houston Astros
It’s been over two years since the Houston Astros won the World Series, possibly by cheating. During the year and possibly beyond, the Astros used illegal electronic means and other means to let hitters know what pitches were coming. Major League Baseball investigated and found it to be true. They suspended the manager A.J. Hinch and the teams’ general manager for a year, but the Astros owner immediately fired both of them.
Something that still sticks in the craw of the New York Yankees and its players is that no individual player was reprimanded in any way. In particular, it cost Aaron Judge the Rookie of the Year Award. The cheater, Jose Altuve, beat him out for the reward. However, the cheating hurt the records of other players and pitchers alike from all the teams they played against.
Another instance that proves that bad feeling still exists against the Astros came up yesterday when Brian Cashman spoke of what Masahiro Tanaka has meant to the Yankees during his seven-year stint with the team. Cashman mentioned that Tanaka worked really hard to get us to a World Series, but it never came to fruition. He mentioned that his best chance was in 2017, but he hit the “shenanigans” of the Astros, depriving him of a World Series appearance.
Possible targets disappearing by the day
Although the New York Yankees have been very active during the last two weeks improving the team, many have criticized Brian Cashman for the slow start in his wait-and-see strategy while waiting to sign DJ LeMahieu. Even LeMahieu has said since the signing that the negotiations could have been completed in two weeks. Meanwhile, possible targets have been being signed by other teams.
Notably, several healthy pitchers and relievers have signed with other teams. More recently, the Yankees had to decide if they would bring back outfielder Brett Gardner or acquire Joc Pederson or another outfielder. That choice is now gone as Pederson has signed a deal with the Chicago Cubs. J.A. Happ has signed with the Minnesota Twins.
The Yankees were considering an upgrade at shortstop; their two targets would have been Altrelton Simmons and the Colorado Rockies Trevor Story. Simmons signed with the Twins. Now that the Rockies have traded Nolan Arenado and as much as $50MM to the Cardinals, they won’t consider a story trade. Previously another target, the best shortstop in the business, Francisco Lindor, went to the New York Mets. You get the point, every day that the New York Yankees don’t act, their options become fewer.