After being tendered by the New York Yankees prior to the MLB lockout, it appears that Gary Sanchez will be back for at least one more year. Whether or not he will remain with the team beyond the 2022 MLB season is yet to be determined, as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason. Fans of the New York Yankees are split on the idea of Gary Sanchez being extended. The debate centers around whether or not his powerful bat makes up for his deficiencies on defense.
Gary Sanchez: The Prospect
Gary Sanchez was one of the most exciting Yankees prospects in recent history as he was coming up through the minor league system. He was always projected to be an elite hitter and many scouts believed that he had the potential to hit .300 or better in the majors. This is a huge weapon, in particular, from the catcher position, where there is generally a lack of offense. The position he played paired with his batting talent are what made him such an intriguing prospect.
In his first two years with the Yankees in 2016 and 2017, Gary Sanchez burst onto the scene and lived up to all of the hype. He only played in 53 games during his rookie season but still finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. He exceeded expectations despite them being as high as they were. In only about a third of a season, he batted .299 and hit an impressive 20 home runs. In his first full season in 2017 he appeared in 122 games. He was selected as an All-Star and Silver Slugger while hitting to 126 OPS+ with 33 home runs.
The Frustrating Regression
Since his first two seasons with the Yankees, much of the offensive promise of Gary Sanchez has disappeared. His power never went away, hitting 85 home runs over the past four years. In fact, his 138 career home runs are the most by any MLB catcher since his rookie season in 2016. He is also slugging .487 in his career, third-best among all MLB catchers in the same time frame. While the power has remained impressive, the rest of his game has suffered since the 2017 season.
Since recording a solid OPS+ of 168 and 126 in his first two seasons, he has never reached either of those marks again in any of his last four years. In fact, he has only eclipsed a 100 OPS+ in just one other season. He hit to a .284 batting average combined across his first two seasons. Since then, he has just a .201 batting average. Sanchez has never exceeded 90 RBIs in any season of his career and his rookie season was the only one with .350 OBP or better.
The defensive deficiencies have always been there for Gary Sanchez. The one positive about his defense is his arm strength, but he falls short just about everywhere else. He has never done a great job blocking or framing pitches while his ability to call a game has always been questionable. The biggest issue for his perception is that when he was hitting at an elite level, not many really cared about his defense. Now that his offense has struggled as well, it’s frustrating to wonder where his positive contributions to the team are even coming from anymore.
Gary Sanchez’s Future with the New York Yankees
The New York Yankees appear to be committed to Gary Sanchez for at least one more season, where he will make around 7.5 million dollars. The real question surrounds whether or not they will offer him a new contract when he becomes an unrestricted free agent following the 2022 MLB season. There are reasons to defend both sides of the argument. Sanchez was a prospect that the Yankees were probably planning on having to pay a huge contract to at some point. With that no longer being the case, they may be inclined to try and retain him at a discount.
GM Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees front office have built this team in recent years with their primary focus being on hitting home runs. Gary Sanchez does that. The Yankees have not recently made any roster moves that would sacrifice offense for defense and have also shown that they really don’t care about how often their batters strike out. These concepts of the Yankees philosophy also work in Sanchez’s favor.
This may not be what much of the Yankees fan base wants to hear, but Gary Sanchez actually fits perfectly with the Yankees philosophy. Whether or not that philosophy is appropriate to compete for a World Series is another question, but there is no doubt that it has produced winning baseball in The Bronx. If Sanchez is willing to take a team-friendly deal at a discounted price, it wouldn’t be surprising if they locked him up for the next few years. Regardless of his failure to live up to the hype, he does indeed fit the mold of what the Yankees have prioritized in recent years.
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