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This Day in Yankees History: The Chris Stewart Experiment finally ends

Plus a happy birthday to Gary Sánchez!

Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees
Juuuuuust missed it.
Photo by Andy Marlin/AM Photography/Getty Images

Welcome to This Day in Yankees History. The 2020 baseball season has come to an end, so let’s dig into the history books. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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52 Years Ago

The Yankees lose César Gerónimo to the Astros in the Rule 5 Draft. It was a barely-discussed move at the time, as Gerónimo was only 20 and the Yankees had only signed him out of the Dominican Republic a year prior. He didn’t hit much at all as an outfielder in Fort Lauderdale (.526 OPS in 109 games), and the Yankees had been holding out some hope that they might be able to salvage his strong arm on the pitcher’s mound.

Gerónimo didn’t do much while stashed on the Astros’ bench for three years, but everything clicked for him when he was sent to the Reds as an extra piece in the Joe Morgan trade prior to 1972. His hitting improved enough and he became an elite defender for the Big Red Machine, winning four consecutive Gold Gloves in center from 1974-77 and back-to-back World Series titles in 1975-76. The best part for Gerónimo was probably clinching the second title at Yankee Stadium after the Reds swept the Yankees in ‘76. Chalk that move up as a “whoops.”

7 Years Ago

After a frustrating 2013 season that saw Yankees catchers hit an anemic .213/.287/.298 with a 62 wRC+, Brian Cashman finally pulls the plug on Chris Stewart by trading him to the Pirates for minor league pitcher Kyle Haynes. Given the team’s recent signing of All-Star catcher Brian McCann, the writing was likely on the wall.

Although Stewart was a fine defender, his dismal offense summed up the Yankees’ woes in 2013 quite nicely. He was one of many backups forced into regular playing time due to a starter’s injury (Francisco Cervelli in his case), and he just wasn’t cut out for a starting role. Obviously, it was an unfortunate situation for Stewart to get stuck in, but hey, that was 2013 in a nutshell. I don’t miss it!

Also, one time Stewart struck out on just two strikes, and I will never forget it.

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It might be a light day for Yankees history, but it’s a big one for birthday boy Gary Sánchez, who turns 28 today. To say he’s had an up-and-down Yankees career would be putting it lightly. Sánchez went from one of the top teenage prospects in the game in 2011 to someone who was not even considered among the top 100 at the start of 2015. Then, he put it all together and set the American League ablaze when he was called up for the final two months of 2016, famously smashing 20 homers in just 53 games while nearly nabbing AL Rookie of the Year honors in a very limited sample.

Since the start of 2017, Sánchez has ping-ponged between excellent and disappointing seasons at the plate, all while facing constant criticism of his defense (though it’s been fine lately). His 2017 and 2019 were superb, as he made two All-Star teams and bashed over 30 dingers in each campaign, breaking Yogi Berra’s single-season franchise record for homers by a catcher. Sánchez’s 2018 was a slog, though, and his 2020 was even worse.

Sánchez’s 28th birthday will absolutely be a notable one because it happens to coincide with the non-tender deadline, and the Yankees could very well decide not to offer him a contract for 2021. Eek. Aaron Boone’s public support of Sánchez would seem to suggest that the Yankees will take the (all things considered) inexpensive ~$5.7 million flyer on his bat to rebound, but we’ll know either way by the end of the day.

Anyway, please enjoy Gary murdering a baseball for his birthday.

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We thank Baseball Reference, SABR, and for providing background information for these posts.