Despite his awful 2020 season, Gary Sanchez will likely be back with the New York Yankees for another go in 2021.
It’s certainly understandable why. The veteran backstop turned in a truly awful 2020 season, batting just .147 despite 10 home runs. Sanchez performed so badly that he was benched for backup Kyle Higashioka in the playoffs.
Sure enough, Yankees Twitter is bellowing for the Bronx Bombers to break out the big bucks to sign J.T. Realmuto in free agency. Realmuto spent last year with the Philadelphia Phillies and is widely regarded as the best catcher in MLB today.
However, general manager Brian Cashman spoke with the media on a Zoom call and didn’t commit to moving Sanchez. However, he did not commit to the former All-Star as the Yankees’ starting catcher next season.
“We’ll evaluate that particular position because we’ll be forced to now as we move forward,” Cashman said to reporters during his press conference on Wednesday. “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.”
Cashman also called the query on Gary Sanchez’s future “a fair question,” while manager Aaron Boone offered more definitive support and said he still has “a ton of confidence” in his catcher.
Realmuto vs. Reality
It’s valid to wonder if Gary Sanchez is really the Yankees’ long-term option at catcher, but here’s the honest truth: He isn’t going anywhere for at least another year.
Let’s start with J.T. Realmuto, who will absolutely get the lucrative contract he deserves in free agency. He hit .266 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs with Philadelphia in 2020 and is a two-time All-Star. Realmuto also took home a Gold Glove last year, while Sanchez’s problems with passed balls are well-known.
Except, Realmuto not only turns 30 in March, but Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports he could be looking for a deal worth around $200 million. Sanchez, meanwhile, turns 28 in December and has two years of arbitration left. The Yankees aren’t going to write another big check for a soon-to-be aging catcher, especially with Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Santon’s contracts on the books.
Rather, it’s more likely Sanchez will remain in New York and have to earn the starting job back in spring training. Higashioka is 30 years old already, but hit .250 in 2020 and is a superior defender. He also struck out less, posting a K% of 22.9% this season compared to Sanchez’s 36%.
This isn’t to say Gary Sanchez needs to keep getting chance after chance. If he wins the starting job but can’t hit at or about .240 while showcasing his signature power, then Higashioka should be the starter. Additionally, this is when Cashman should start considering other catching options, be it in free agency or a trade.
Gary Sanchez is a special player. No one becomes the fastest catcher and second-fastest player to 100 career home runs by sheer luck. When push comes to shove, he isn’t going anywhere.
Hopefully, he gives everyone reason to keep that line of thinking in 2021.