New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez used to be considered one of the best catchers in the league not too long ago. However, in MLB Network’s top ten catchers list for 2020 Sanchez was ranked fifth. In 2019, he was ranked fourth and was on the list made before the 2018 season he was ranked second. He did not even crack the top ten list for catchers for the 2021 season.
There is a reason Sanchez is not on the list. He has not been good. Gary Sanchez was good before the all-star break in 2019, he even made the starting lineup in the all-star game behind the plate. But since then Sanchez has not been the same. In 2018, Sanchez had a batting average of .186 with an OPS of .697 as a power hitter. Now he was hurt that year, which is a reasonable excuse.
Before the 2019 All-Star break, Sanchez had a slash line of .245/.315/.556/.870 in 68 games. But in the second half, Sanchez had a slash line of .207/.318/.467/.785 in 38 games. Now, this is a pretty good slash-line for a catcher.
But in 2020, he showed signs of his 2018 self by hitting for just .147 with 64 strikeouts in 178 plate appearances. Catchers can get away with an average or slightly below average offensive performance if they provide defense behind the plate. Unfortunately for Sanchez, he is one of the worst defensive catchers in the MLB.
From 2019 to 2020 Sanchez has accumulated -6 DRS according to Fangraphs among catchers with at least 100 innings. This ranked him at 78th in the league among catchers. His framing was -7.6 and placed him 86th. In 2017 and 2018, he led the league in passed balls. He is a liability behind the plate. Gerrit Cole does not like pitching to Sanchez and made Kyle Higashioka his primary catcher. Gerrit Cole when pitching to Sanchez had an ERA of 3.91. His ERA when pitching to Higashioka was 1.00.
Gary Sanchez’s 2020 performance was bad he got benched in the playoffs. Higashioka made five starts behind the plate for the Yankees in the postseason. Sanchez only made two starts. Yankees GM Brian Cashman believes that this was a fluke season for Sanchez and that he will be stronger in 2021. Recently, Sanchez claimed he did not know why he was benched. General manager Brian Cashman responded to this giving Sanchez a harsh reality. Brian Cashman said everyone knows why. Cashman stated that Sanchez was terrible in 2020, and everyone knows it. Cashman said the organization even considered non-tendering him. Sanchez in my opinion is at the lowest point of his career value-wise.
Should the Yankees Keep Gary Sanchez?
No, they should not. The Yankees feel as though Sanchez is still their guy behind the plate. But when your catcher has a track record of having a batting average below .200, struggles with injuries, and terrible defense it is time to reevaluate your catching situation. Now, I do not doubt that he could bounce back in 2021, he has the home run power to put up an OPS of .800. But he strikeouts out way too much, he misses pitches in the heart of the zone and is an absolute liability behind the plate. A solution could be to move Sanchez to DH. Unfortunately, that spot is occupied by Giancarlo Stanton. I believe the Yankees should trade Sanchez and explore other options for a catcher.
How Could the Yankees Replace Gary Sanchez?
The Yankees could attempt to trade him based purely on potential alone. They most likely would not get anything too special. However, there is a potential opening for the Yankees to simultaneously get rid of Sanchez and acquire a better catcher.
Similar to the Kris Bryant trade talks, Willson Contreras’ name has been thrown around in trade ideas. I believe Contreras would be a perfect fit for the Yankees. Contreras would be both an offensive and defensive upgrade over Gary Sanchez. Willson Contreras is one of the best catchers in the MLB. He was ranked as the fourth-best catcher. Now, why would the Cubs want to trade him? I believe that the Cubs would listen to trades for him. Whether it be because they do not want to pay him or they just feel like they could improve by trading him.
A trade for Willson Contreras is the way to replace Gary Sanchez. However, it would not necessarily be easy to trade for Contreras. A better catcher behind the plate would drastically improve the Yankees.
How Would the Trade be Done?
The Cubs reportedly want a lot for Contreras. In January there were rumors between the Cubs and Marlins for Contreras. Sanchez and Contreras are similar, they are both in arbitration, they are both currently 28 years old, they both make $4 million, and they both become free agents in 2023. Now the big question is what the trade would take. The Yankees would most likely have to attach prospects. Sanchez, plus one to two top 10 prospects, and then a fringe MLB player should get the job done. Sanchez does not have much value, besides his potential and power, but that is not enough. It would not necessarily be cheap to get Contreras, but it should not be too challenging.