A .129/.250/.226 postseason triple-slash and the most strikeouts (12) in Yankees ALCS history, these are the unfortunate final impressions of Gary Sanchez’s 2019 season. To call his playoff performance anything other than a disappointment would be flat-out wrong.
These numbers, however, do not define Sanchez’s Yankees tenure, nor his future. While trade buzz around the backstop has been rampantly speculated upon by outsiders, moving on from him would be one of the worst moves the Yankees could make this offseason.
Despite his maddening inconsistency, there aren’t many catchers in the league more well-rounded than Sanchez. His hitting prowess is unmatched; in just 446 plate appearances, he ranks first in home runs (34) and second in RBI (77). Sanchez had the best OPS among catchers in the American League, and a rock-solid 116 wRC+. He’s the most elite hitting catcher in the junior circuit, even with his frustrating prolonged slumps.
As for defense, Sanchez made strides this season. After leading the league in passed balls in 2017 and 2018, Sanchez only allowed seven this year, which was right around league-average. We already know he has an elite throwing arm, and his pitch framing isn’t bad either— StatCorner has Sanchez right around league average, while Baseball Savant has him slightly below, but not damagingly so.
Having said this, why are there fans and pundits suggesting the Yankees move on from Sanchez? Who can the Yankees get that can do what he does? Austin Romine is a great backup, but if you think he can produce offensively close to Sanchez over a full season, you’ve got another thing coming. While his defense is better than Sanchez’s, it’s also not as elite as it’s perceived to be. Furthermore, Romine is entering his age-31 season and is a free agent. Honestly, he’s probably earned a starting role on another team given how weak the state of catching is league-wide. Even if Romine sticks around, he’s not a viable replacement for Sanchez.
Young catchers that can hit like Sanchez don’t grow on trees, and there’s a reason why they aren’t available on the market. They’re rare and therefore precious. Although Sanchez does have a good chunk of trade value in a vacuum, the massive downgrade that would come at the catcher position would not make the move worth it. I’m totally spitballing, but while Sanchez and another valuable piece might be able to fetch a controllable starter, the Yankees would be losing a unicorn of sorts, a catcher who can hit at an elite level who is improving on defense. They’d never get another catcher like him.
Sanchez’s postseason was abysmal. However, a bad few weeks following a hasty comeback from a groin strain are not indicative of the value he provides the Yankees. Instead of focusing on what he doesn’t do, Yankees fans need to appreciate more of what Sanchez does do.
Early-career expectations around Sanchez were astronomical, which is partially why he feels disappointing at times. Although he hasn’t matured into the transcendent, franchise cornerstone that he was projected to be at one point, Sanchez has still developed into an All-Star catcher who still has room to grow at age-27. Yankees fans should be thankful for that, not ready to push him out the door.