Gary Sanchez is the Answer
By next week, Gary Sanchez will have been in the minors the 35 days necessary to push his free agency back a year. Sanchez’s shaky spring performance aside, that was presumably the primary factor in making Austin Romine the backup catcher to start the year.
Romine has been the invisible, replacement-level backup catcher everyone expected so far, with a 71 wRC+ in 21 PAs and adequate defense. He’s a long time Yankees farmhand and I’m was glad for him when he won the job, but now he’s served his purpose. It’s time for him to move aside.
After a slow start, Sanchez has been tearing the cover off the ball lately, raising his overall line to .271/.326/.506, good for a 144 wRC+. He’s hit two homers in his last three games and looks locked in. With Alex Rodriguez out for at least the next few weeks, the team has a gaping hole in the middle of their lineup. Sanchez could provide a much needed power bat to the struggling offense.
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He’s a natural platoon partner for Brian McCann behind the dish. That will allow Joe Girardi to keep McCann fresh without having to replace his best hitter in 2016 with a generic backup catcher. Sanchez would also be an intriguing option at DH. I’m a huge fan of both Aaron Hicks and Ben Gamel, and would love to see them get regular playing time, but neither offers the offensive upside this year that Sanchez does. Right now, scoring runs is the Yankees’ primary concern. He has the potential to have the same type of impact Greg Bird did last season.
The 23-year-old Sanchez now has raked in 243 PAs at MiLB’s highest level along with the eye-popping power display that earned him rave reviews in last year’s Arizona Fall League. I’m not sure there’s much benefit to leaving him in the minors at this point.
With A-Rod out, New York has the option of giving him semi-regular at bats split between catcher and DH. Even when he sits, his time in the big leagues will be worthwhile, because there is an astounding amount for an MLB catcher to learn. That education can really only come in the show. The only cost to this move would be possibly losing the eminently replaceable Austin Romine. The upside might be finding a new cleanup hitter.