The Yankees Should Not Consider Replacing Gary Sanchez with Yadier Molina
by Owen Hetherington, Nov. 15, 2020
Looking ahead to 2021 Spring Training, Gary Sanchez will likely find himself in an unfamiliar situation, batting for his job as the starting catcher. Last season, he posted a .147 AVG which was the worst in all of baseball among players with at least 150 PA. A recent tweet from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman suggests that the Yankees could be looking towards the free-agent market to replace Sanchez as the starting catcher.
Future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina has received calls with interest from both the Yankees and Mets plus 3-4 other teams in addition to the #STLCards as I just said on @MLBNetwork St. Louis is the likely favorite but in free agency you never know. Seeks a 2-year deal. — Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 12, 2020
In 2020, Yadier Molina hit .262 (38-for-135) with 16 RBI over 42 games. Molina’s career accolades make him arguably one of the best catchers in baseball with 9 Gold Gloves, 9 All-Star appearances, and two World Series Championships. His numbers have been on the decline in recent years, which is expected as Molina enters his 18th season.
Would signing Yadier Molina fix the Yankees’ catching problems? I don’t think so. Molina is likely entering the final contract of his career heading into his age 38 season. The Yankees would likely need to offer a multi-year deal worth around 20 million to Molina. Although I have the utmost respect for what Molina has done throughout his career, he is way past his prime and won’t benefit the Yankee’s offense in 2021.
The pandemic’s impact on 2020 revenues will greatly influence where the Yankees spend this offseason. Signing Molina will take money away from what should be the Yankee’s top priorities, adding another starter and resigning DJ LeMahieu.
Rather than look to the free-agent market, I think the Yankees should let Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka battle it out for the starting spot. The Yankees have Sanchez under club control for two more seasons and Higashioka is still earning the league minimum.
Despite Sanchez’s numbers during the 2020 season, he is hitting .208 with 46 home runs and 107 RBI over his last 162 games. Here’s a look at his Statcast numbers compared to other catchers with at least 150 PA in 2020:
First in maxEV- 117.5
First in LA (launch angle)- 19.2
First in barrel%- 17.4%
Second in EV (exit velocity)- 91.8
Second in hardhit%- 50.0%
When Sanchez makes contact, he hits the ball as well as anyone in baseball. The key word in the previous sentence is “when.” During the 2020 season, Sanchez had 64 strikeouts in 178 PA (36% strikeout rate). Sanchez is not going to hit for high average but can provide a big bat for a much more reasonable salary than what they would have to pay Yadier Molina.
Is Gary Sanchez going to be the starting catcher on Opening Day? I sure hope not. I think his lack of production offensively over the past few years puts a question mark over the former All-Star’s head. However, I think signing Yadier Molina is not a main priority for the Yankees. I’m more in favor of riding out Sanchez and Higashioka over signing an aging Molina.