The New York Yankees and its fans have really soured on catcher Gary Sanchez even his most ardent supporters. He got so bad last season that he was actually sat down at times toward the end of the season and in most of the postseason, in favor of backup catch Kyle Higashioka. When your backup catcher is trusted more than your starting catcher, that isn’t good.
Now that we are in the offseason, the Yankees are looking for ways to improve the team and are doing it in a financial environment where two things are in play. With a season with no fans in the stands, the Yankees suffered the biggest losses in baseball from the loss of revenue. The other is that is no clear path to a 2021 season that says fans will be allowed in the fans again, with the coronavirus now ravaging the entire county at its greatest height ever.
Those considerations will cause the New York Yankees and the other 29 MLB teams to be penny pinchers for the most part. Some teams will spend, but most will stay close to the vest. Yankee’s general managing partner Hal Steinbrenner has already announced that he wants to stay under the luxury tax threshold.
The Yankees have three primary areas they must address before the start of the new baseball season. The most important is putting together a starting rotation to support the new Yankee pitching ace, Gerrit Cole. The Yankees spent a huge amount on Cole, and they aren’t going to waste that money by not supporting him with a rotation that can win games. They will also look to bolster an already good bullpen that has suffered the loss of Tommy Kahnle.
The other two problems are not as concerning but should be addressed. Gleyber Torres did not perform as expected at shortstop, not playing well or hitting well. I will leave that for another article. What I will address is the complete collapse of Gary Sanchez as the Yankees’ everyday catcher. Even though the Yankees, for the most part, had continued to support Sanchez, he has been in continual decline since 2016 when he came in second in the Rookie of the year voting and 2017 when he was a Silver Slugger and All-Star.
That decline made headlines this year when his defense again failed, and he could only hit .147. Immediately after the season ended, rumors started that Sanchez may be done as a Yankee. Due to arbitration, Sanchez was to make $7 million this year, and many thought he was not worth that. I have to admit that I am not a Sanchez supporter and haven’t been since 2018. But maybe now that the dust has settled on the previous season, it is time to look deeper into the whole catcher situation.
Is J. T. Realmuto or Yadier Molina the answer for the Yankees?
Should the New York Yankees spend for a Realmuto, sign one of the most reliable catchers in the game in Yadier Molina, or should they think about James McCann? Looking at Realmuto, he will be very expensive. He will demand a paycheck that will be more than the Yankees pay for their whole catching staff now. Looking at it carefully, he isn’t that much of an upgrade from Sanchez, considering the money involved.
When you look at Realmuto and Sanchez side by side, there really isn’t that much of a difference on the offensive side of the ball.
- Realmuto career: .278/.328/.455 with 380 runs scored, 95 home runs, and 358 RBI
- Sanchez career: .236/.320/.502 with 245 runs scored, 115 home runs, 286 RBI, one less season than Realmuto.
- OPB/OPS: Sanchez .320/.823, Realmuto .327/.783
Looking at those stats carefully, they don’t support spending all that money on a player whose career stats are not that much better. Plus, the Yankees have better things to spend their money on than blowing the budget on a minor upgrade. What isn’t mentioned in these stats is that Sanchez has a rocket of an arm that few players are up to challenging.
Yadier Molina may be a different story. One is that he will not command the salary or length of contract that Realmuto will. Yadier Molina is in the twilight of his career being one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. He has a better batting average but does not have the power of Sanchez. He is familiar with the Yankees even though he had played his entire career with the Cardinals. His brother Jose caught for the Yankees platooning with Joe Girardi. James McCann is a good defender, has a better batting average than everyone mentioned .289, and can hit home runs. But the bottom line here is that none of these catchers would be a huge upgrade to Sanchez.
With the talk now being that the Yankees may tender Sanchez, maybe the best path is to tackle the pitching deficiencies and leave the catcher situation just as it is. Maybe consider Sanchez’s 2020 performance more as a blip in his career rather than things to come. Sanchez hit the most home runs of any catcher last year. Another positive point is that Sanchez stayed healthy last year. Sánchez is participating in the Dominican Winter League as he aims to move past an all-around frustrating year.
To a lesser degree, the Yankees must get another backup catcher with the retirement of Erik Kratz. The Yankees Josh Thole, who hasn’t caught in the majors since 2016, is probably not the answer as he was rejected last season in favor of the 40-year-old Kratz.
Maybe manager Aaron Boone needs to forget his disdain for personal catchers. After all, it worked out brilliantly for Gerrit Cole and “Higgy.” Start the new season by catching a platooning situation much like what manager Buck Showalter and Casey Stengel did in their managerial careers. This plan could allow Sanchez to shine again and get over a horrible season. Let Higashioka catch Cole and Garcia and Sanchez the rest as it seems appropriate. It just might work.
As I mentioned before I am not a Gary Sanchez fan, but the platooning situation may be the way to go with so many unknowns for the upcoming 2021 season, and the other more important pitching needs that the New York Yankees will have to solve. Who knows as bad as his 2020 season was, he has the talent to return to his 2017 All-Star season and his league-leading home runs for a catcher in 2019.