Gary Sanchez Back in NY? Sort Of.
Yesterday, Joel Sherman broke the news that the New York Mets had signed Gary Sanchez to a minor league contract. Let's talk about it...
Talking About It:
Gary Sanchez is one of the most interesting catchers in- or, well, out of- the MLB right now. Concessions can be made to Willson Contreras on the St. Louis Cardinals who is no longer a catcher (temporarily?) for taking the top spot, but Gary Sanchez is always going to get press.
It bears repeating that during his first 4 years (not counting a 2 game stint in 2015) from 2016 through 2019, Gary Sanchez was leading the way for a new type of catcher in the league. He won a Silver Slugger and was a 2-time All-Star. Gary hit to a .247/.329/.518/.847 quadruple slash with 343 hits, 105 home runs, 262 RBI's which boosted him to a 122 OPS+ (the average catcher manages around a 90 OPS+) along with +11.3 bWAR and + 11.6 fWAR. He also had one of the strongest arms in the league from a catcher with which brought him a near 33% caught stealing rate and mostly kept opponents from even thinking about running. He was the prototype for the high power, strong arm catcher.
This isn't to say things were perfect for Sanchez. His game was perceived as lazy, he played in just 370 of 648 games (or 57%), his defense was questionable outside of his arm. However, he was able to avoid being considered a problem because hit bat was just too darn good. He was necessary in the Yankees line-up. His flaws were being masked by his bat, in a big way.
In the last 3 years (2020-2022), these problems became much more clear. It shouldn't surprise anyone that those problems also became a major talking point about Gary Sanchez because his hitting fell off a cliff. Across the last three seasons, Sanchez hit to a .195/.287/.394/.681 quadruple slash. That's a major fall from grace!
Just this year, he played 16 games for the Sacramento River Cats (the San Francisco Giants Triple-A team) while posting a .164/.319/.182/.501 quadruple slash.
However, things can be seen in another light.
Gary Sanchez played in 294 games of possible 384 during those 3 years. That's nearly 77% or a 20% jump from the prior 4 seasons.
Gary Sanchez, even while hitting below the Mendoza line, still produced to an OPS+ of 89. That's generally considered league average for a catcher.
Gary Sanchez still has a powerful arm and the league has started to promote more stolen bases.
I can't fault a 7-year big leaguer looking for another shot for having a bad 16 game sample in Triple-A. His on-base percentage was pretty good and it's likely he isn't seeing as many good pitches to hit and is getting ahead of himself. That's all natural.
I was far from being the biggest Gary Sanchez fan while he was a New York Yankee. I also think the trade to get rid of Sanchez was an absolute disaster (getting back Josh Donaldson and IKF while also losing Gio Urshela, when Sanchez could've just been non-tendered). I also also believe that this is a good signing for the New York Mets. I even argued a bit in favor of signing Sanchez to a minor league deal this offseason (while ultimately not thinking he was the right fit for the Yankees in the moment).
No minor league deal is a bad deal.
Best of luck to Gary Sanchez on trying to make it back to the league. And, to make it back to New York.
Responding to the Replies:
A new segment here where I'm going to look at some Twitter replies and respond, in short, to them.
First up, from @UnhingedPatrick, "He's better than Higgy [Kyle Higashioka]."
Yes, Kyle Higashioka has been bad this year. But, he's always been bad in the 1st half of the season. Just look at last years numbers! In the first half of 2022, Kyle hit to a .171 average with a .546 OPS and 5 home runs. In the second half of 2022, Kyle hit to a .299 average with a .801 OPS and 5 home runs in 13 fewer games. Considering the whole team is having massive problems on offense, I'm not going to single out Higashioka here as the sole player to blame. (And yes, I am a homer for Higgy. So, that plays a role in this defense too.)
Next, from @walkoffstudios, "Gary Sanchez will be better than Sean Murphy come July, you heard it here first."
This is an obvious joke as Sean Murphy is leading the National League with a .621 SLG, 1.048 OPS, and a 188 OPS+ in the early goings this season. However, Sean Murphy's career statistics are pretty close to Gary Sanchez' was during his first 4 years. Look at this:
Sean Murphy (Career): .240/.336/.445/.781 with a 122 OPS+ over 361 games
Gary Sanchez (2016-2019): .247/.329/.518/.847 with a 122 OPS+ over 370 games
Early career Gary Sanchez was pretty darn good. There's a reason the Mets (and Giants) are taking a shot on him this year. His potential is very high.
Our second to last tweet comes from @JacobPiccini, "better than nido offensively, but can someone teach the guy how to catch plzzzz."
I had to look this up, but Tomas Nido has given the New York Mets a .118/.148/.118/.266 quadruple slash this year. That's a -26 OPS+! I think I can be safe in saying that Gary Sanchez will do better than that. The problem is if Sanchez doesn't hit well, his defense becomes an issue. But, he'll be better than what they had going for them.
And our final tweet comes from @PlayoffTanaka_, "I miss u Gary."
A lot of Yankees fans do, and it's why so many are going to root for him to make it back into the MLB with the New York Mets. And, I wish him all the best too