The Yankees awarded Gary Sanchez a generous raise to $5 million. A repeat is not automatic next year, and 2020 may well be the last call for The Kraken.
Gary Sanchez is a walking advertisement for every way the word potential can be described.
The Yankees have been considerate and, in some cases, even solicitous, in their treatment of their 27-year-old catcher. They’ve done this with the understanding that some flowers take longer to bloom.
Some might even suggest the Yankees have coddled Gary Sanchez, and in doing so, have therefore enabled the inability of Sanchez to develop into a multi-tooled major league player.
Gary Sanchez is (presently) a one-tool player. He hits home runs and few of them are cheapies.
The problem surfaces, though, when we compare his 105 career home runs to 1,576 plate appearances, and we learn only 6.6% of those end with a home run.
Furthermore, if you subtract the 34 home runs Sanchez hit last year from the Yankees total as a team, they still hit more home runs than 25 major league teams.
This is not meant to be a Gary Sanchez bashing or assault. But it is to establish that Gary Sanchez is not delivering what the Yankees need and what they expect from their starting catcher.
Sanchez And The Rising Cost Of Mediocrity
Five million dollars is a nice round number. Among arbitration-eligible big league catchers, Sanchez is now the highest paid in the group. He has two more arbitration years remaining before he reaches free agency.
It remains to be seen if he can hold the highest-paid title for the duration.
Part of the job description for Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman is to support their players – all the time. And they must be lauded for the accolades sent Sanchez’s way over the past four years.
But one can also wonder if, in their private conversations, there are reservations raised regarding the future of Sanchez with the organization. When is enough – enough?
Gary Sanchez: Unfortunately, Numbers Don’t Lie
The numbers delivered to date by Gary Sanchez raise concerns. Using data provided by Baseball-Reference, we find the so-called “truth” using all arguments about a player’s value.
Gary Sanchez, as we have learned, hits a home run about seven times for every one hundred trips to the plate. He’ll also strike out 25 times, however, or once in every four plate appearances.
With two out and runners in scoring position, Sanchez has a .215 batting average with only nine of his 105 home runs coming in that situation. With two strikes, Sanchez bats .175. On an 0-2 count, he slides even more to .151.
In short, Gary Sanchez is not a situational hitter on a team where everyone hits home runs. As a one-dimension ballplayer, it is fair to ask if the Yankees really need what he provides.
And we’re not even going to get near his defense performance to date. A line of coaches, and now a new hire in Jason Brown, who will be specifically dedicated to Gary Sanchez, have given their effort.
Modest gains have been made, and by all accounts, Gary Sanchez has done his part by doing the extra work necessary.
But it’s more like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
Yankees: Behind Closed Doors
We’ll never hear it publicly, but it’s reasonable to believe that 2020 is the “last call” from the standpoint of the Yankees.
Gary Sanchez is no longer a “cheap investment” the Yankees can afford to look at as an experiment.
The five million he makes this year is subject to two more arbitration seasons, so when reached, Sanchez can climb to well over $10 million – only due to building service time.
Even for the Yankees, this would be a hard pill to swallow if the current level of production – or really non-production continues.
In The Meantime, Though…
In the meantime, though, it might be wise for the Yankees to shift the focus of Jason Brown to their best-rated catching prospect, Anthony Ziegler.
Fantrax HQ describes Ziegler as having “the ability to be one of the best defensive catchers in the game down the road. His defensive prowess and strong throwing arm should allow Gary Sanchez to move over to DH once Seigler is up.”
They go on to add, “Overall, he could develop into a .280/10 type and be a poor man’s, Yadier Molina.” It sounds like an improvement to me…