When the New York Yankees talked with the Miami Marlins about trading Gary Sanchez for J.T. Realmuto, they may have revealed a few secrets.
Following offseason trade rumors is almost like watching a superhero movie—suspension of disbelief is prerequisite to enjoyment. MLB general managers weave epic tales on par with any of the latest comic book adaptations. New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s handling of Gary Sanchez is a perfect example.
Cashman said in October that Sanchez is the Yankees’ starting catcher, and he’s not going anywhere. Less than a month later, the Bombers reportedly put a Gary Sanchez for J.T. Realmuto trade offer on Derek Jeter’s desk.
The Marlins apparently wanted more than Sanchez and nixed the deal. Cashman then said the reports are a lie, doubling down on his October sentiments:
Brian Cashman flat out denies any rumors that the Yankees have any interest in moving Gary Sanchez. He is our catcher, he says, and any reports otherwise are totally false.
— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) December 2, 2018
Cashman may be telling the truth, or he could be covering his tracks for the sake of Gary’s ego. Whatever the situation is, what it reveals about the Bombers’ opinion of Sanchez is now open for interpretation.
Interpretation 1: Gary’s glove is a lost cause
It’s impossible to be a Yankees fan and not know about Sanchez’s incredible inability to catch the ball. Just when you think he’s mastered moving laterally and getting his body in front of the ball, he starts stabbing weakly at pitches barely out of the strike zone as they whiz by him.
Gary and Sevy team up for the worst first inning imagineable. pic.twitter.com/L6gNElWZxW
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) September 6, 2018
Sanchez’s issues are fundamental—maybe with some lack of effort and focus mixed in—which means they should be curable. And before the Realmuto rumors surfaced, the Yankees appeared to think they could fix him.
However, if they’re considering parting with him, that may indicate that the Bombers are running out of confidence in Sanchez’s potential for improvement.
Interpretation 2: Gary’s bat is overrated
Sanchez has a ton of power, and he hit for average in his first two seasons. He compiled excellent averages of .299 in 2016 and .278 in 2017.
But 2018 was a different story. The 26-year-old didn’t lose his power stroke, blasting 18 home runs in roughly half a season; however, he only hit .186 and got on base less than 30 percent of the time.
The solution is simple. He needs to improve pitch selection.
Sanchez knows he needs to lay off sliders that swerve off the outside corner. His coaching staff knows it too. The question is, does he have the drive to develop the necessary discipline?
Only the Yankees and Sanchez know the answer to that question. But neither side is going to outright tell the world if they believe lack of discipline will always be a problem.
Maybe the trade rumors hint which direction New York is leaning, though.
Interpretation 3: Gary’s passed balls might scare free-agent pitchers
New York has the deepest pockets in baseball, so they should be able to make Corbin an offer he can’t refuse, in terms of money. The problems are that it could be hard to sell a pitcher on success in pinstripes when the Sanchez passed-ball problem lurks behind the plate.
It may or may not be coincidental, but the rumors about a possible Sanchez for Realmuto deal started swirling around the time Corbin was scheduled to visit the Bronx.
The Yankees may have been signaling to Corbin that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if that means sacrificing Sanchez’s power for Realmuto’s consistent hitting and athletic prowess behind the dish.
Interpretation 4: Gary’s almost out of chances
Trade talks could also be a signal to Sanchez, a ploy to light a fire under the talented Baby Bomber. And it’s not the first such message the Yankees have sent their catcher.
New York drafted seven catchers in 2018, including first-round pick Anthony Seigler. That seems like a bit much if Sanchez is the catcher of the future. Maybe the strategy was more of a kick in the pants for Sanchez than an excessive contingency plan.
I don’t think the decision makers in the Bronx are giving up on Sanchez. But I do think they are letting him know that he needs to patch the holes in his game, or they will ship him out of town.
The 2019 season is an audition for Gary Sanchez. New York’s lineup is stacked even without him, so the team could easily choose to go with a defense-first catcher if Sanchez can’t get his act together.
Remember your grain of salt
Bear in mind, this is all just rampant speculation about the Yankees’ opinion of their backstop. The truth will play out on the field next year.
I’m rooting for Sanchez to succeed because penciling 30-40 home runs into the catcher position is something no other team can do right now. Plus, the excitement of his offensive rampage in 2016 still hasn’t worn off for me.
Even if he can’t solve his defensive issues, the Bombers can still make room for his bat at DH by forcing Giancarlo Stanton to play the outfield or convincing him to opt out in 2020. I’d be fine with that change.
The onus is completely on Gary Sanchez to prove himself. A huge 2019 will pretty much shut down all this crazy trade talk. But if he disappoints again, it might be time to throw the Baby Bomber out with the bathwater.