Yankees Should Look to Upgrade at Backup Catcher


With Brian McCann traded to the Houston Astros, New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez has lost his safety net. Should the team find him a new veteran backup?

As incredible as he was in 2016, it’s important for Yankees fans to remember that Gary Sanchez has played less than two months in the big leagues and there might be times next year when we are wishing Brian McCann was still on the roster.

It’s not often that MLB clubs hand over the starting catcher job to someone as young as Sanchez because there is a lot that comes with the position. One of the main arguments for keeping McCann for the 2017 season from many analysts was how beneficial it would be to have him as a mentor for the youngster.

Sanchez is certainly not going to sustain the production from his first 53 games over the course of a full season. The Steamer projection system expects him to hit a very good but very mortal .268/.329/.490 with 27 home runs in 527 plate appearances. Aside from the inevitable slumps that come with being a young hitter, however, the real challenge will be managing the pitching staff and the everyday grind of working behind the plate.

More from Yankees News

At the moment, the Yankees have two catchers on the 40-man roster, Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka. Last year was Romine’s first extended stint as a big league backup, and while he wasn’t terrible, they should probably upgrade because of the uncertainty inherent in having a 24-year-old starting catcher. Having an inexperienced starter and backup at one of the most mentally demanding position on the field doesn’t seem ideal.

Romine finished the 2016 season with a .242/.269/.382 slash line 176 plate appearances and was once again below replacement level by Baseball-Reference at -0.2 WAR (-1.1 WAR for his career. Higashioka’s breakout in the upper-minors was impressive, but I’d like to see him sustain it in Triple-A next year and prove it wasn’t a fluke before handing him a big league job.

Next: Most Important Takeaways from 2016 Arizona Fall League

In the meantime, there are plenty of veteran catchers with starting experience who shouldn’t command more than a one-year deal on the free agent market. Alex Avila, Kurt Suzuki, and Geovany Soto all put up solid numbers in 2016 and have long resumes, but could be willing to accept a part-time role at this point in their career.