There’s a lot to unpack with Gary. When he’s rolling, he’s the best hitting catcher in baseball, no doubt about it. That was the case in 2016, 2017, and the first half of 2019. But when Gary is bad, he’s awful. We’ve seen a lot of that in the past three years. And of course, there are still questions about his defense. Let’s dive in.
One statement I often see from people defending Gary is “you can’t base your opinion of him on a 60-game season.” They’re right, 60 games is way too small of a sample size to make a major decision. The problem, however, is that Gary hasn’t been good for a majority of the last three seasons. In 244 games since the start of 2018, he’s hit just .200 with a .296 OBP. That’s good for a just below average wRC+ of 98. So let’s not pretend that it’s just 2018 we’re talking about.
Despite the overall struggles, it was just last year that we saw Gary at his truly elite level. He was voted the starting catcher for the American League in the 2019 All-Star game. Gary posted a .871 OPS with 24 homers in the first half, which is elite no matter what position. It’s unbelievable for a catcher. So even though he’s been more bad than good the past three seasons, it’s tough to give up on a guy who we saw crushing the ball just last year. Which leads me to my next point.
His trade value is low
The way I look at it, Gary Sanchez is essentially a scratch off ticket right now. He could have a terrible 2021 and further suggest that he just isn’t the same player we saw in 2017 anymore. Or, Gary could re-emerge as the offensive force we’ve all seen him be in the past. I don’t see the Yankees getting anything of value for him right now. If you told me the Yankees could use Gary to get a difference-making pitcher, I’ll drive him to the airport myself. But I’m not trading a guy with as much upside as Gary for a bucket of baseballs. The Yankees should hold onto that scratch off ticket and hope it’ll cash in this season.
Gary’s defense has been an issue for years. However, he actually made great strides behind the plate in 2020, especially with his pitch framing. As long as Gary’s hitting well, he’ll be making a huge impact on the team. We just need him to be serviceable as a catcher. Hopefully, a full spring training with new catching coach Tanner Swanson can help him continue to improve.
The fact that Gary started just two of the Yankees seven playoff games is a bit concerning to me. Clearly, the Yankees’ level of faith in him has dropped. Granted, three of the games were Gerrit Cole starts, who was caught exclusively by Kyle Higashioka down the stretch. Gary played great in Game 2 of the Cleveland series, with both a two-run homer and the game-tying sac fly. Obviously, you can’t base much off a two-game sample size. Nevertheless, it was encouraging to see him come through on the big stage after his struggles all season.
So what’s next?
When you take into account Gary’s potential and his low current trade value, I think it makes more sense to keep him around in 2021. Ideally, the Yankees bring in a defensive-minded veteran catcher to back him up, and push him to be his best. I was extremely tough on Gary Sanchez this year. You could probably dig up a dozen of my tweets wishing the Yankees would move on from him. But I’m holding onto one last bit of hope that the absolute stud we saw in 2016, 2017, and the first half of 2019 will return in 2021.