gary sanchez
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It’ll take some negotiating, but the New York Yankees sending Gary Sanchez to Chicago for Willson Contreras is an idea just crazy enough to work.

Josh Benjamin

We need to have a conversation about Gary Sanchez.

The New York Yankees might be at a crossroads with their 28-year-old backstop. It’s already mid-May, he’s batting just .178, and is no longer the clear-cut starter over Kyle Higashioka. After a 2020 season more forgettable than The Emoji Movie, this is surely not how Gary Sanchez imagined 2021.

But there are bigger things to consider now that Sanchez’s struggles haven’t quite dissipated. The Yankees are just two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East race and may seek to upgrade their lineup.

Seeing as how there aren’t any immediate options in the minors, it’s time for the Yankees to be aggressive.

It’s time to call the Chicago Cubs and ask about swapping Gary Sanchez for Willson Contreras.

Keep the Kraken?

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: the New York Yankees want Gary Sanchez to succeed.

I mean, isn’t it obvious? He received a contract for this season after one of the worst individual seasons in recent baseball history. On any other team, particularly with pandemic-related losses a factor, he’d be thrown out faster than Macho Man Randy Savage’s rap album (It’s real, go listen and cringe).

Furthermore, just look at how much time and energy the team has put into improving his defense. Sanchez’s issues with passed balls are well known and would have seen him switch positions or even cut anywhere else. The Yankees stayed patient, and now he has a single passed ball in 22 games.

Oh, and let’s not forget that as I write this, Gary Sanchez’s most recent game saw him do the following against the Tampa Bay Rays:

Sanchez has also done a better job drawing walks this year, so much that his BB% is a career-high 15.6%. Yet, he’s once again having issues hitting the fastball and his strike rate in the field is just 45.6%, per Baseball Savant. That strike rate in particular is concerning, given Sanchez’s frequent struggles with pitch framing.

It’s getting more and more frustrating to watch his struggles. He reached 100 career home runs faster than anyone in AL history, and now it seems he’s either going yard or making an out.

And even if Higashioka becomes the starting catcher, it’s hard to see him as a true long-term replacement for Gary Sanchez.

Willson Contreras, on the other hand, might be.

The Way of Willson

As for trading for Contreras, the Yankees might have an easier time than people realize. The Cubs’ backstop is hitting .248 with seven home runs and 18 RBI. His overall slash line is .248/.349/.459, and he’s barely a year older than Sanchez. In fact, today is his 29th birthday.

Contreras has also slugged 81 career homers since debuting in 2016 and is a better defensive catcher. His strike rate is only 45.2% this season, but he’s always been a streaky pitch framer. More importantly, he’s never once reached double digits in passed balls.

On top of that, Contreras would give the Yankees some flexibility since he can also play first base as well as the outfield in an emergency. With Gary Sanchez, he’s often either catching or on the bench, and has only logged three career innings as a first baseman.

Moneywise, both players have a year of arbitration left and are earning $6.35 and 6.65 million respectively. The financial side of the deal is a wash.

Most important of all, the Yankees could use some of Contreras’ fiery persona in what’s considered an all-business franchise.

Making the deal

So how do the New York Yankees trade Gary Sanchez for Willson Contreras? We all know swapping backstop for backstop won’t do. This isn’t MLB The Show with the option to force trades enabled.

Let’s start with Chicago’s first proposal. The Yankees would receive Contreras for Sanchez, but would also have to include Deivi Garcia and an outfield prospect. This makes sense. The Cubs need a solid young pitcher to boost the back end of their rotation and also some outfield depth on the farm.

Except Garcia’s upside is too high to just trade away, even if it’s for Willson Contreras. Thus, the following deal seems fair:

  • Cubs receive: C Gary Sanchez, RHP Clarke Schmidt, RHP Albert Abreu, IF/OF Miguel Andujar, OF Everson Pereira
  • Yankees receive: C Willson Contreras, RHP Kohl Franklin, LHP Burl Carraway, OF Yohendrick Penango

Think about it. Schmidt, despite his elbow trouble, also has upside and could probably be MLB-ready by next year. In adding Andujar, moving Anthony Rizzo becomes easier and puts a successor in place. Pereira is 20 years old and still finding his hands as a hitter, but has a plus arm and can play all three outfield positions.

It’s a lot of players being exchanged, but such is the business of making trades in baseball.

Final thoughts

Mind you, none of this is to say that Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras should be traded for each other immediately. Even with split duties now, Sanchez still played well enough in spring training to earn the starting job. The potential to be a good hitter is there.

But the New York Yankees are struggling at the plate and need more consistent hitting. Sanchez has received chance after chance. If he’s not traded this season, he’s getting non-tendered in the winter. The Yankees are just cheating themselves by not trying to get someone back for him.

And if that someone can be Willson Contreras, all the better. The Chicago Cubs are blowing up their team anyway, and maybe Sanchez could do with a change of scenery.

Brian Cashman, your move.