With the New York Yankees scrambling for answers in multiple areas, a slight internal switch could be all that is needed to right the ship.
Having lost 10 of their last 12 games, the New York Yankees are searching for solutions to patch up evident flaws.
The starting rotation has come back down the earth since the loss of CC Sabathia, Tyler Clippard‘s downfall has paved way for an atrocious stretch out of the bullpen and first and third base remain weak links in an otherwise powerful and potent lineup.
When it comes to the first base situation, designating Chris Carter for assignment was a start, but the organization must expand its thinking.
All signs point to Greg Bird being a long way from knocking on the door — and his injury history would indicate that an ugly trend is developing. As far as missing time is concerned, Tyler Austin is no stranger to it either, and the 25-year-old’s skill-set is much better served for a super-utility role. Not that of an everyday first baseman.
What the Yankees fail to realize is that their first base solution is sitting behind home plate, experiencing massive defensive growing pains while mashing the ball offensively to the extent of the third-most homers (33) in the first 100 games of a career in baseball history.
That man is Gary Sanchez.
When the sensational young star burst upon the scene last year, taking the league by storm with a historic offensive outburst, his defense complemented his slugging tremendously.
His arm accuracy was phenomenal, showing signs of becoming a future gold glove catcher. His ability to handle a pitching staff was not a shortcoming. This year, after missing most of the season’s first month, his bat has been there in its entirety, but his glove has vanished.
Sanchez’s defensive game has been lackluster in the truest sense of the word.
The 24-year-old’s defensive WAR has dropped from 0.5 (2016) to 0.2 (2017), he has already committed three more errors in only three more total games than last year, and he has only cut down 29.2 percent of base stealers, which is down 11 percent from his rookie campaign.
Based purely on general observation, he has been slow in blocking the ball, becoming unreliable when tasked with keeping breaking pitches from trickling away, and the pitching staff has suffered as a result.
Would Sanchez’s offense suffer from a move to first base? Absolutely not. Would the starting staff — and bullpen, for that matter — thrive if Austin Romine slid in as the everyday backstop? Perhaps:
- Tanaka — Sanchez (8.62 ERA), Romine (3.57 ERA)
- Pineda — Sanchez (4.91 ERA), Romine (2.16 ERA)
- Severino — Sanchez (2.97 ERA), Romine (3.56 ERA)
- Montgomery — Sanchez (4.91 ERA), Romine (2.92 ERA)
As evidenced by the statistics above, three of the four healthy regular starters are helped substantially when Romine is their batterymate. For Severino, the exception, his ERA remains in a strong state regardless.
When New York ran off its best stretch of the season, going 20-5 between April 9 and May 8, Romine was the primary catcher.
This is not to say Sanchez’s offensive prowess has not helped the lineup, as it certainly has. Rather, this is to say that Romine’s bat certainly will not hurt, and his glove only ensures that the Yankees will halt their nasty habit of wasting outstanding 5-7 run performances.
The 28-year-old backup has only committed one error and two passed balls in 36 games behind the plate this season, his arm is as accurate as they come, he is familiar with each and every pitcher’s tendencies, and, as a seasoned veteran in the league, he knows how to weather the storm in the heat of a division race far better than a defensive project does.
Furthermore, Romine’s .350/.375/.450 slash and 12 RBIs in 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position displays his ability to be a situational force near the bottom of the order.
Keeping Sanchez, his 29 homer pace, and .942 OPS in the lineup behind Aaron Judge — without the wear and tear of everyday catching — could create for one of the most dominant tandems in baseball.
After all, if the Baby Bomber wants to continue releasing the Kraken and solidify his place as a franchise cornerstone, it may be best to keep him out of harm’s way at a position that demands offensive prestige.
This is a quick and easy fix that strengthens the Joe Girardi‘s lineup, starting rotation, and defensive alignment, all while protecting the future.
Greg Bird will need to earn his way back to the table, while Tyler Austin can be moved to a role he can truly excel in.
The Yankees have their first baseman. They just don’t see it yet.