Brian Cashman had plenty of positive things to say about Gary Sánchez on Tuesday, but he did not make a commitment to the catcher.
Cashman spoke for over an hour after the Yankees announced that Aaron Boone will return as New York’s manager. It didn’t take long for the subject to change and for the questions to focus on the organization’s offseason. Among the inquiries: what’s the plan behind the plate?
Sánchez slashed .204/.307/.423 with 23 homers and 54 RBI over 117 games and 383 at-bats in 2021. He continued to work on defensive adjustments, a theme throughout his career, but the results fell below expectations.
The 28-year-old made six errors and oversaw eight passed balls, 60 wild pitches and 50 stolen bases. Sánchez’s 17% caught stealing rate was by far the lowest of his career. As for framing stats, Sánchez ranked 55th in Runs From Extra Strikes (-6) and 49thth in Strike Rate (45.8%). Fifty-nine catchers qualified.
For comparison, fellow Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka finished 13th in Runs From Extra Strikes (3) and ninth in Strike Rate (49.8). Milwaukee’s Omar Narváez led the majors with 10 Runs From Extra Strikes, while Mets backstop Tomás Nido had the best Strike Rate at 53.5%.
(You can read more about Runs From Extra Strikes and Strike Rate at Baseball Savant.)
Despite the metric rankings, Cashman said that Sánchez “came a long way defensively with a lot of hard work put in.”
“I know one thing. Gary has worked his tail off. Gary has been so committed. I know at times the results may not be there, but I am proud that we’ve got a guy with a lot of heart, a lot of care, a lot of effort,” Cashman said. “He worked his tail off all year to put himself in a position to be an improved player for us at that position this year. And for the bulk of the year, that showed. At times down the stretch, it maybe deteriorated a little bit.”
Cashman also called Sánchez “one of the better offensive catchers in the game,” but he was not in the starting lineup for New York’s wild-card loss to the Red Sox. Instead, Higashioka received Gerrit Cole, a typical occurrence since the pitcher came to New York.
For the second year in a row, Sánchez came off the bench in the Yankees’ final game of the season.
Higashioka, meanwhile, played in a career-high 67 games in 2021. He hit well below The Mendoza Line but added 10 homers and 29 RBI over 193 at-bats.
Now the Yankees enter the offseason with two catchers who both leave some things to be desired in full-time starting roles. Sánchez and Higashioka are arbitration-eligible, and the free agent market is limited. Cashman said the Yankees will evaluate “every position” this winter, but it’s clear that catcher is an area that will require extra deliberation.
“We’ll see,” Cashman said when asked if Sánchez is the starter moving forward. “We’re going to evaluate all available options.”