If I Were the GM: Looking Ahead to 2020 – Catching
This article is the sixth in my series on how I would build the 2020 Yankees.
You can see the previous segments here:
These posts have often been quite lengthy. Today’s doesn’t have to be. Today’s post is simple and easy. If I were the General Manager of the Yankees, my starting catcher in 2020 would be Gary Sanchez.
That’s a no-brainer if there ever was one.
Gary Sanchez has many of the tools necessary for greatness. He continually ranks at the top of all catchers in baseball in offensive production. Last year, Sanchez led all MLB catchers in homeruns with 34. His power is exceptional. He is a rare and exceptional talent.
Most ratings sites rank Gary Sanchez as either the best catcher in the big leagues or the second best. He will also be entering his Age-27 season. Sanchez has been in the Major Leagues since 2016 and he’s still just a kid. His future is bright and he’s already a top catcher now!
So what’s the problem?
There are a few problems, or at least concerns.
For a hitter who has such a tremendous bat, outside of home runs, Sanchez’s has not been a great hitter. His batting average over the last two seasons combined is only .211. His On Base Percentage is only .305. Those are not great numbers.
His defense, which has improved, is still concerning at times.
He does not stay healthy.
One of my big concerns about the Yankees in 2020 and beyond is the fact that some of their biggest young stars do not stay healthy. In my previous piece, I noted that Aaron Judge has missed 110 games (combined) the last two seasons. Gary Sanchez has missed 129 total games the last two years (not all due to injury, but that’s a lot of missed games). Sanchez is young, yes, but he does not have a young player’s durability. Sanchez has played in 100 or more games only twice in his career (122 games in 2017 and 106 games in 2019). As a point of comparison, Jorge Posada played in 100 or more games in 13 seasons.
For a player to be truly great, he needs to be in the lineup. Gary Sanchez just hasn’t been in the lineup consistently. You can’t be great if you’re not playing.
Because of the durability questions surrounding Sanchez, a great deal of responsibility falls to the Yankees back-up catcher(s). This is not an area of strength heading into 2020.
The Yankees’ first order of business here, as such, has to be to re-sign Austin Romine.
I have thought long and hard about this, but there just are not a lot of quality or solid back-up catchers available right now. At all. Romine is the best of the bunch. In my heart, he deserves to head to another team to get his chance, finally, to play more, but I just can’t allow that to happen. In my pocketbook, I also think that Romine will be too costly for a back-up, but then I realize that since Sanchez has missed (on average) about 40% of the Yankees’ games the last two years, that I am going to have to pay for a back-up who is almost playing as much as some regulars.
I have to pay Sanchez because the only other MLB ready catcher in the Yankees system is Kyle Higashioka. I like Higashioka. He seems to call a good game, but, except for some surprising homeruns (six in total), he has not hit in the Major Leagues (lifetime .164 batting average). Heading into the 2020 season, a season in which I have World Series hopes, I cannot trust that Higashioka is the answer to back-up my oft-injured starting catcher. I just can’t do it.
Higashioka also isn’t a young kid on the rise. He’ll be entering his Age-30 season. Yes, he is three years older than Gary Sanchez. The future he is not.
Also determining this situation is the fact that after Kyle Higashioka, the Yankees system in virtually empty on quality Major League ready catchers who could play a role on a championship team. This was once a position of great depth in the Yankees system, but it is not that today – right now.
I realize that if I don’t pay Austin Romine that I am going to have to pay, probably at a very similar salary, for a different steady big league back-up catcher (who would be a player not quite at Austin Romine’s skill level). It makes sense, therefore, to pay Romine, who is a leader on the team and who has the pitching staff’s confidence rather than to seek to find a different back-up.
In my plan Higashioka remains only our emergency option.
I also hope, beyond hope, that Gary Sanchez can stay healthy and put it all together in 2020. A team with Gary Sanchez catching 130+ quality games is a powerful team indeed!
My 2020 Yankees as reported thus far:
MGR – Aaron Boone
PITCHING COACH – Dave Righetti
C – Gary Sanchez (Back-up – Austin Romine)
1B – Carlos Santana
2B – D.J. LeMahieu
SS – Gleyber Torres
3B – Miguel Andujar
UTL – Gio Urshela
LF – Giancarlo Stanton
CF – Joc Pederson
RF – Aaron Judge
OF – Brett Gardner, Cameron Maybin
SP – Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels
(Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, and Michael King are waiting in the wings.)