The calls to replace Gary Sánchez behind the plate aren’t new to this year. He’s been the most scrutinized player on the roster for a few years now. But this time, moving on from him actually seems possible. Especially when the team’s general manager says so. In a press conference last week, Brian Cashman addressed the catching situation: “We’ll evaluate that particular position because we’ll be forced to now as we move forward…but, ultimately that will be a subject that we have to discuss as well and it could very well be a change. It could very well be a competition.”
By “forced to”, Cashman is pointing to Sánchez’s dreadful 2020. The catcher hit .147/.253/.365 (69 wRC+) in 178 plate appearances and struck out 36 percent of the time. Defensively, the new catching stance didn’t take. Gary ranked in the 37th percentile in Statcast framing and he allowed 5 passed balls (after 7 in a full season in 2019). This isn’t the first time Sánchez has had a bad season (hello, 2018), but this year may have pushed the Yankees’ over the edge. The problem: it’s not easy to find good and readily available catchers in baseball.
On the top of your head, who unquestionably will be better than Sánchez going forward? J.T. Realmuto and Yasmani Grandal are the safest bets. Conveniently, Realmuto is a free agent. After those two backstops, things get dicey. And even if you want to make cases for guys like Willson Contreras, Christian Vázquez, Sean Murphy, or Travis d’Arnaud (to name a few), are those guys even available via trade? No.
Now, the Yankees could easy upgrade over Gary by signing Realmuto. That’s not gonna happen, though. The Yankees are cutting payroll. Free agents after that include James McCann, Tyler Flowers, Alex Avila, and a few others. I don’t know about you, but swapping one of those guys in for Sánchez isn’t inspiring, as bad as Gary was this season. Maybe their floors are higher than Gary’s, but I’d also presume that they’re far less likely to play better than Sánchez in 2021.
Look, I can’t blame anyone who’s lost faith in Gary. I mean, I’d be lying if I said I had a lot of faith in him going forward. There’s always been a lot of talk about his tantalizing potential, yet, we’ve seen how low his floor is. The Yankees need a higher floor behind the plate in 2021 and beyond, but finding that is easier said than done.