Yankees: 3 biggest X-factors for 2021 season

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Gary Sanchez #24 of the New York Yankees Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

1. That Whole Gary Sanchez Thing

Either the Yankees have an All-Star starter behind the plate or they have one of the biggest messes in the game behind the plate. As we’ve learned these past few years, there is no in-between.

Isn’t that fun?

Seriously. There is absolutely a world in which every column penned preseason about alternate fits and non-tenders and rising arbitration costs is rendered irrelevant by a full season in which a rejuvenated Gary Sanchez hits .270 with 35 homers. It isn’t hard to see.

There’s also a world where Sanchez hits for his trademark power with a .190 average, the fan base screams, and the team realizes that this isn’t a sustainable way of life as his price tag rises.

And there’s almost no middle ground. Or, at least, we haven’t witnessed it yet. If that level of narrative variance doesn’t scream “X-factor,” then we’re not sure what does.

Sanchez acolytes are largely correct. At every point of his Yankees career, he was a better option than Austin Romine. He’s a better starter than Kyle Higashioka. As ghastly as his 2020 was, it was capped by a playoff homer and all-important ninth-inning sac fly in the Wild Card round. Much of the “Higashioka vs. Sanchez” discourse was based on vibes, and that’s no way to go through life.

But the World Series-aspiring Yankees can’t commit long-term to someone who lives below the Mendoza line at a premium position like this, even though the market is somewhat dry. For at least one more year, this is Sanchez’s job, and he can grab the reins or fall back in the pecking order.

Happy medium? Doubtful.