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With Gary Sanchez the primary catcher, this could mean Brian McCann is on his way out

The young catcher has only been up for a couple of weeks, but Brian Cashman already sees him as McCann’s replacement.

MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Isn’t Gary Sanchez fun? Since he was called up on August 2nd, Sanchez has hit a whopping .360/.396/.720 (197 wRC+) with five home runs, albeit in a small sample size of 53 plate appearances. We know the cautionary tales, of course. For every successful prospect there’s also a Jesus Montero or Kevin Maas, so we don’t need reminding. For now, at least, it’s just fun to sit back and enjoy the ride.

For the Yankees front office at least, they’re doing a bit more than just enjoying the ride. Just yesterday, Joe Girardi officially announced that Sanchez would in fact be the everyday catcher moving forward, booting Brian McCann out of the role into a regular designated hitter position. This, even though it makes sense, is still surprising.

McCann, as we have learned over the past two-plus seasons, is nothing like his Atlanta Braves self, but he is certainly a serviceable catcher. He has put up 7.5 WARP (I use WARP because this includes framing runs) in 369 games, which definitely makes him an above-average catcher. His .261 TAv isn’t something to be happy about, but the defense, as well as his known ability to work with Yankees pitchers, certainly makes him valuable on and off the field.

This means that if the Yankees are willing to exile McCann from the starting role, then they think Sanchez is better than just above-average. They probably think he’s a star. I’m always fascinated by what teams think of players by allocation of playing time or public statements, and this one speaks volumes. Here’s what it means.

Most importantly, it means that McCann’s exit could be upon us. He could be traded as soon as this month because he’s a waiver trade candidate, but that’s unlikely. The Braves expressed some interest, but I don’t think they’re itching to make a move in August of a non-competing year.

In the offseason, though, there are a number of candidates, and now McCann has a reason to waive his no-trade clause. Like we saw with the Jonathan Lucroy deal that wasn’t, playing time matters to ballplayers. That’s why they have no-trade clauses. They want the certainty of knowing where they are for that span of time, and the certainty of knowing they’re playing the game they love. If a fan or pundit tells you that players only care about the money and then they check out, explain that.

If McCann knows that he won’t be playing, he would most likely be willing to waive the clause so he could be an everyday player; there are a number of teams that would love to have him. The Braves are an obvious choice because they need a catcher and they’re familiar with him; the Tigers have money, and they have framing demon Jarrod Saltalamacchia; the Angels also have money, and they’re relying on a player that’s actually named Jett Bandy.

There are only two years and $34 million left on McCann’s deal, and his $15 million option only vests if he gets 1,000 plate appearances and 90 games at catcher in 2017-18, and that he doesn’t end 2018 on the disabled list. Those are a lot of conditionals, and you can guarantee he doesn’t hit those marks as a Yankees designated hitter.

I couldn’t even begin to wonder what a return for McCann would like, because the market for catchers four months from now is unknown, and it also depends on how much money the Yankees are willing to put down. Either way, the emergence of Sanchez likely means this could be a reality.

I have mentioned time and time again that this is now a new era of Yankees baseball, and the departure of McCann would put one more nail in the coffin of the previous one. I can’t say for sure whether Sanchez is a bona fide super star, but considering how hesitant the Yankees have been in the past to supplant a starter with a prospect—only Jesus Montero for Jorge Posada in 2011, and Robinson Cano for Tony Womack in 2005 come to mind in recent history—I’m willing to believe this is for real. If they do send McCann off and rely on Sanchez, we can only hope it’s true.