Finding an upgrade over Gary Sánchez is easier said than done

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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.

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11 Comments

  1. Yanks3170

    I’m not as harsh as Gary as I should be, but maybe that’s because I’ve resigned myself to understanding what he is offensively? He’s a guy that goes on long cold stretches and long hot stretches. When he’s off, he has a really, really tough time getting back into good form. We’ve seen it several times. When they announced a 60 game season, this was a clear scenario. He was cold for a long stretch and the good form didn’t have enough time to come back. There was also a scenario where he would light the world on fire for 60 games. Unfortunately there wasn’t much of a middle ground IMO. He’s an extremely steamy hitter.

  2. Wire Fan

    Is Gary that hard to replace? He was below replacement level this year (-0.1 WAR). And the two years before that he was basically league average (1.7 and 2.3).

    I think the Yankees will start next season with him and see where he is at prior to the trade deadline.

    I think the fans here still view his 2017 and partial 2016 as the baseline. Maybe that was the outlier?

    • Mungo

      So why would the 2016 be the outlier when he played in more games and had more plate appearances than his 2020 season, a “season” you’re putting up as an equal to other seasons? Why can’t his 2018 when he was injured, and the 2020 COVID season when he played in some 40+ games be the outliers? Seriously, in Sanchez’s first four seasons he had a 121 OPS+, and in his most recent full season, 2019, he had a 118 OPS+.

      I’ll be the first to admit that Sanchez’s batting approach is annoying because of his streakiness and inconsistences, but it seems you’re reaching to a new level here to dismiss the positives only to embrace the negatives.

  3. Let’s see how Gary does this season and then make our decision. Let him catch half the games and give Higgy the other half. If Gary doesn’t play as well as Higgy, it’s time to move on.

    • Mungo

      I wouldn’t give HIggy half the games. If Sanchez hits, he should be out there for 110 games or so. If he hits like he did in 2020, giving him half the games would be too much! Sanchez will determine how much he plays.

  4. MikeD

    They could look to go out and pick up a catcher who had an off year but offers upside? Oh, wait, that would be Gary.

    The Yankees offense isn’t an issue, at least when it comes to scoring runs. Adding balance would be fine, but we all know that doesn’t from catcher. They might as well go with the catcher who offers the highest upside in baseball, while holding onto and also playing the strong defensive catcher in Higgy. In other words, they are already set at catcher in 2021, unless they really are going to get Realmuto, which we know they won’t. They have other more pressing priorities where they need to spend their resources. Gary is your catcher. Deal with it! : -)

    Looking forward to Sanchez winning come back player of the year. He’s already been buried not just by Yankee fans, but all of baseball based on, uhh, a 60-game season. Before the first pitch has been thrown, he’s in the lead.

  5. I wonder how much of Cashman’s comments are scare tactics. The organization obviously sees Gary as a cornerstone of this offense. We all know the Girardi/Gary history and how that may have factored in Girardi’s departure. They brought in a new catching coach to help him. To think the Yankees are serious about moving on from Sanchez as their primary catcher is a premature notion. Now having said all that, their patience isn’t going to last forever so who the hell knows. But the smart money is on Sanchez catching Cole opening day 2021.

  6. The Front Office PR machine built up Gary for years. Now they have to climb down. The Front Office should have listened to Joe Girardi but it didn’t.

    • Gerreddardit Cole

      No it ain’t, Derek, because the upgrade is already on the roster! Higgy was outstanding in the ALDS. It wasn’t his fault the rest of the team under performed. He blocked every pitch in the dirt. He’s demonstrably better than Gary defensively and doesn’t have to stick one leg out like a dog peeing. He’s more nimble and has just as good an arm. If he played a whole season I think he’d hit 20+ dingers. Hell, he hit 3 in one game. And unlike Gary he’ll hit .280 instead of .120. He puts the ball in play, has pop in his bat and is a superior defender. That is an upgrade over Gary. They could trade Gary for a box of n95 masks and come out ahead. Kratzy can be the backup C and Deivi’s personal catcher. Problem solved.

  7. Carlos

    Playing devils advocate because I’m pro-Gary, but maybe the thought process is punting offense and getting a more defensive minded catcher? Going cheap on a Jason Castro or looking into an Austin Barnes.

    I’m not saying this is what they SHOULD do, but maybe that’s an avenue they look into?

    • Paul Ferland

      I think you are 100% correct Carlos. I think they will sacrifice the offense at this point just to get a competent defensive catcher who, in theory, would also help the pitching staff save some runs. And I can’t say this is the wrong move. Yes, a well-rounded catcher who can hit and play great defense would be awesome…but there are like 3 of those guys. It’s hard to do and to find. Maybe its Higgy and a veteran like Barnes. Either way, I think you need stability at that position defensively, and stability is not exactly Gary’s strong suit.

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