As the Yankees bowed out of the ALDS in five games to the Rays, the team will have to start retooling their roster for the 2021 season. Perhaps the biggest question mark facing the organization is what to do with Gary Sanchez.
Not that long ago, Sanchez was the top prospect in the organization. Having signed as a 16 year old he quickly rose through the ranks and took MLB by storm at the back end of the 2016 season. 2017 saw his first All Star Game and his .278/.345/.531 made him one of the best catchers in the game despite being only 24. 2018 proved to be a challenging year but a bounce back season in 2019 left Yankees fans optimistic for 2020.
However, this year the wheels completely fell off. Sanchez was completely lost at the plate and he continued to struggle behind the plate. Early in the season Gerritt Cole could be heard yelling the location of foul balls for Sanchez. Eventually, Sanchez would be replaced by Kyle Higashioka as Cole’s personal catcher. During the ALDS, Higashioka would take over the starting catching role while Sanchez was left on the bench.
As the Yankees begin the 2021 off-season, they will have to figure out what to do with El Gary.
If the Yankees decide that they cannot fix Gary, these teams could make sense as potential trade partners. While Sanchez has lost quite a bit of trade value, he is still only entering his age 28 season and has two years left of team control. Furthermore, there are not a lot of great catchers around baseball. If MLB keeps the DH in the National League, it will create more suitors for the Yankees backstop.
The Brewers entered the 2020 season with high hopes of competing for the World Series. Instead they barely made the playoffs and were quickly sent home by the Dodgers. Led by former MVP Christian Yelich, the Brewers will be looking to contend in 2021. With Ryan Braun hinting towards retirement, the Brewers will free up $15 million and their DH spot next year. The Brewers also struggled to get production from behind the plate as Sanchez would be a significant upgrade over incumbent Omar Narvaez.
If the Brewers do emerge as a trade partner, I would expect the Yankees to target one of the many talented arms in the farm system, led by Ethan Small, Aaron Ashby, Antoine Kelly and Max Lazar. Or perhaps the Yankees could sweeten the deal and land Josh Hader.
St. Louis Cardinals
Like the Brewers, the Cardinals battled in the NL Central before suffering a first round loss to the Padres. Like the Brewers, the Cardinals will be hoping to bounce back and have one more World Series run with their current core. Unlike the Brewers, the Cardinals have an established backstop in Yadier Molina. However, Brad Miller was only okay in the DH position and is a better fit as a utility infielder. The Cardinals could also hope that the 38 year old Molina can help Sanchez with his defensive issues and serve as his eventual replacement.
The Cardinals have a few young arms that could interest the Yankees including Tink Hence and Junior Fernandez.
The Diamondbacks spent big money last offseason on Madison Bumgarner while trading for Starling Marte just to see the wheels come flying off. Sanchez would be a clear offensive upgrade over catcher Carson Kelly and DH Daulton Varsho. However, Arizona could decide that they are too far behind the Dodgers and Padres and instead enter a rebuild mode, which would take them out of the running for Sanchez.
The Diamondbacks minor leagues are dominated with quality pitching prospects and could tempt the Yankees with Blake Walston or Corbin Martin.
The Phillies may or may not have a huge catching need depending on their ability to re-sign JT Realmuto. While Sanchez and Girardi at times butted heads, El Kraken enjoyed his best success with Girardi in charge. If the Phillies find themselves needing another bat to appease Bryce Harper, Sanchez makes some sense.
However, the Phillies minor league system isn’t great, making a deal between the two clubs less likely.
The Yankees could also make the decision to keep Gary and hope that a more normal 2021 helps him bounce back. I argued halfway through this year why the team should keep Gary and he still has a talented bat. What makes the decision hard is not having a DH spot available for him. If the Yankees do decide to keep Sanchez, I would expect Higgy to continue battling for time.
The Yankees will have a lot of decisions to make this off-season but the Sanchez decision may be the biggest.