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Trade Proposal: Yankees, Cubs Swap Catchers

Would Chicago's Willson Contreras be a better fit behind the plate in pinstripes than Gary Sánchez?

Has Gary Sánchez played his final game in a Yankees uniform?

Former general manager Jim Bowden believes the backstop should be dealt this offseason and has the trade proposal to prove it.

In a piece earlier this week over at The Athletic, Bowden presented five different offseason moves that can point the Yankees in the right direction. We've already walked through Bowden's idea for New York to trade for first baseman Matt Olson, so let's dive into his proposal regarding Sánchez: 

Trade top right-handed pitching prospects Deivi García and Yoendrys Gómez along with catcher Gary Sánchez to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for catcher Willson Contreras.

The Cubs are rebuilding and are in desperate need of pitching prospects with power arms. They can use Sánchez for a year, non-tender him or trade him. The key for them would be acquiring the pitching prospects. Contreras, 29, is still in his prime years and is coming off a season in which he reached base at a 34 percent clip with 21 home runs and 57 runs batted in which resulted in a bWAR of 4.1. He’s a free agent after the 2022 season.

Willson Contreras has been Chicago's backstop for six years, accumulating 95 home runs and 310 RBI while maintaining a .257 batting average. In 2021, the 29-year-old clubbed 21 homers with a .778 OPS. He struck out 138 times, a new career high.

The power numbers between these two catchers are very similar. The separator is that Contreras plays with flare, runs well and has grown to be one of the better young catchers in the game. Plus, he's just more of a consistent producer on offense than Sánchez has been these last few years. 

On defense, Contreras appears to be the better option as well. While his poptime and arm strength are almost identical to Sánchez, he's an above average framer behind the dish. Sánchez is still among the league's worst in that category.

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To put it another way, as Bowden mentioned, Contreras posted a 4.1 bWAR this season, playing in only 128 games. Sánchez's bWAR was 0.7. Last year, it was -0.3. 

You may see this differently, but for argument's sake, let's just say Contreras is an upgrade. That doesn't mean this is a trade New York should be jumping at necessarily. 

Contreras has only one more year left on his contract. If you're parting ways with a big-league asset and two young pitchers with plenty of potential, you better believe it's worth it. Who knows if Contreras would re-sign or if this becomes a glorified rental, similar to the trade New York made for Anthony Rizzo at the trade deadline, another deal between the Bombers and the Cubs.

Deivi García and Yoendrys Gómez are both 22 years old, ranked 11th and 10th in New York's farm system, per MLB Pipeline. Some have already given up on García after his regression this year, but it's hard to ignore the flashes he showed at the big-league level in 2020. 

Perhaps the best question when assessing this proposal is are there better options out there at the position for the Yankees? Perhaps they could sign or trade for a left-handed hitting catcher to platoon with Kyle Higashioka, focusing on defense and those that can put the ball in play. There are talented catchers in the Yankees' organization—like first-round pick Austin Wells—but Wells is years away. In that sense, Contreras would be a splashy move that mixes things up while giving New York an opportunity to move on after one year or adjust accordingly.

Then again, even after these last few disappointing campaigns, Sánchez is also under contract for only one more season and would cost a similar amount of money for the 2022 season. New York could stick with their known commodity and invest in other positions this offseason. Besides, Sánchez is still one of the best home run hitters at his position and has been improving incrementally on defense.

It's no secret the Yankees (and their fans) are frustrated with Sánchez, though. It behooves the Yankees to seriously consider alternatives at the position this offseason and ultimately, if the Cubs shop him around, there may not be a better option than Contreras on the trade market.

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