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Looking Ahead to the 2021 Yankees – My Approach To The Off-Season, Part 4: Looking at Catcher

Over the last few weeks, I have opined on what I would do to build the 2021 Yankees.

In the previous installments of this series, I have made the following suggestions:

Keep Brian Cashman as the GM

Keep Aaron Boone as the manager, but hire an old sage as his bench coach

Not offer a contract to free agent D.J. LeMahieu

In a previous post, I demonstrated that the team has too many right-handed hitters and that, historically, the Yankees have never won a World Championship without left-handed power.

Next, I made the argument that Anthony Rizzo could be available and would fit well at first base.

Then I opined on who should play leftfield.

Today, we look at the catcher.

***

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

***

I know, have seen, have read, and have thought, a lot, about all of the metrics regarding Gary Sanchez’s stats. Yeah, yeah, yeah… I get it:

He’s had bad luck on balls he puts into play.

No catcher hits the ball harder, in fact few players anywhere do.

His power numbers are still very good.

His Isolated Power is still amazing.

Gary Sanchez is the best natural hitter on the Yankees.

And all of that might be true. It probably is true. But, this is what I see:

2018: .186

2019: .232

2020: .147

I know, batting average isn’t everything. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it is something. And the Yankees’ catcher hasn’t even hit .190, let alone .200, in two of the last three seasons.

That’s just not good. Period. Don’t flood me with all the other nonsense. Gary Sanchez has not been good.

Period.

Here’s a Yankees catcher from sometime back:

1986: .259

1987: .137

1988: .227

That catcher also couldn’t hit. His name was Joel Skinner. The scary thing is that by batting average alone, over a three year period, he actually looks better than Gary Sanchez.

Batting average isn’t everything!!!” (they yell)

And, they are correct. It’s not. For a catcher, defense also matters. Joel Skinner was widely considered one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. He was great behind the plate. That was his strength,

Gary Sanchez doesn’t hit as well as Joel Skinner and his defense isn’t in the same stratosphere as Skinner’s was.

Gary Sanchez, by all metrics, and the eye test, is, and has always been, a poor defensive catcher.

He doesn’t hit and he doesn’t catch.

***

I also think, at this point, that Gary Sanchez is a distraction. It sometimes gets to that point. People dig their heels in. A player becomes polarizing. People (fans, writers, commentators) refuse to give an inch on one side or the other.

“Sanchez is the worst.”

“Sanchez is better than you think.”

“He must go!”

“He must stay!”

There is so much noise that no one hears the other.

It has gotten to that point with Gary Sanchez.

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My concern with Gary Sanchez in 2021 is that whenever he plays and whenever he doesn’t play, that will be the story. And none of that is good for Gary Sanchez. The constant discussion, the constant media attention, and all of that…cannot possible help a player who should be great, isn’t great, and is struggling.

You can see the headlines now:

“Gerrit Cole Prefers Higgy”

“Will New Yankees Pitcher _____ Be Comfortable with Gary Sanchez”

“Yanks Sit Sanchez in Critical Game vs Sox”

It has gotten to the point that Gary Sanchez is so polarizing that he’s the story, no matter what happens. And that’s just not good. I don’t think it’ll help him turn the corner in any way.

I think, for the Yankees and for Gary Sanchez, the best thing is for them both to get a fresh start.

In 2022.

***

WHAT???!!!

***

All of the above is true. I believe it all 100%.

But, I also believe that the Yankees really have no choice but to give it one last go with Gary Sanchez in 2021. Sort of a last chance hotel…

Make it or break it.

If I was making the 2021 Yankees, my catchers would be Gary Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka. I’d leave things as it.

***

My 2021 Yankees (see below, and I haven’t even touched the pitching staff) are going to be expensive. I have brought in Anthony Rizzo, Francisco Lindor, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. I’m the Yankees, and I’m flexing my financial might. I’m also about to spend big on the rotation (in an article to come). I just can’t be signing everyone.

I think James McCann will be too costly.

J.T. Realmuto is not an option.

So, if not Gary, than who?

***

Gary Sanchez will be 28 next year. There is a chance that he might (finally) put it together. For me it would be his last chance.

Even at the worst, Gary Sanchez paired with Kyle Higashioka, I think, will be adequate at catcher. There is the possibility (however slim) that Gary Sanchez has a great year. (I don’t know of any other catcher who the Yankees could reasonable acquire who has anything near the potential upside of Gary Sanchez.)

On this team, good enough will be… good enough.

In a reader comments a few weeks back, it was suggested that the Yankees should hire Tony Pena as an experienced coach (something the Yankees also need) to work with Gary Sanchez – to push him and support him. I love that idea. Since the Yankees are giving him one last chance, let’s bring in a coach who can be a true mentor for him.

I also think that Kyle Higashioka is a more than ample back-up. If he ends up starting, I think he’ll be fine. It will be good enough.

I don’t have high hopes for the 2021 Gary Sanchez. But I have a twinge of hope that somehow he puts it all together. If not, he’ll be wearing a new uniform in 2022.

Also, on my team, he’d be a bat in the lowest part of the batting order, maybe the #9 hitter. This isn’t like when he’s be a middle of the order bat and not hitting. IN the worst case scenario, he’ll be a #9 hitter and not hitting. This team can survive that.

There are a ton of reasons to move on from Gary Sanchez, but there are enough other reasons (including his potential) to give him one last shot.

***

To date, the following are my 2021 Yankees:

1B – Anthony Rizzo

2B – Gleyber Torres

SS – Francisco Lindor

3B – Gio Urshela

LF – Aaron Hicks

CF – Jackie Bradley Jr.

RF – Aaron Judge

OF – Clint Frazier

DH – Giancarlo Stanton

C – Gary Sanchez/Kyle Higashioka

BENCH – Shin-Soo Choo

***

Next Up – Starting Pitching!








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