Expectations continue to be high publicly in The Bronx for Gary Sanchez, but his future with the Yankees is unclear as they enter the offseason. Another part of their young core could be in for a change, as well, as there’s no guarantee Gleyber Torres will stay at shortstop.
“It’s certainly a fair question, the way Gary Sanchez’s season transpired and the way it ended with [Kyle Higashioka] actually starting in the postseason as many games as he did,’’ general manager Brian Cashman said on Wednesday of the Yankees’ catching situation. “It’s one of the discussion points we’re gonna have to focus on.”
Sanchez hit just .147 in the 60-game regular season, and in Gerrit Cole’s first year with the Yankees, Higashioka became the right-hander’s personal catcher.
The situation got worse in the playoffs, as Sanchez started just two games. He was little more than an afterthought in October as he approaches arbitration, when Sanchez is due to get a raise from the $5 million he was originally set to make this past season.
“We’ll evaluate that position because we’ve been forced to now,” Cashman said. “It could very well be a change or a competition or other. I know Gary is capable of a lot. I know he cares and is committed and his career will continue and better days are ahead, I truly believe that.”
The Yankees could explore a trade or even designate Sanchez for assignment, but those would be drastic measures for a player who hit 34 homers a year ago. Cashman acknowledged Sanchez wasn’t alone in underperforming in what was an odd season because of the impact of COVID-19.
“I still have a ton of confidence in Gary Sanchez,’’ Aaron Boone said. “I know it was a tough year for him.”
Still, it ended with him on the bench for most of the playoffs.
“I feel like right now, we have Gary and [Higashioka], two quality major league catchers,’’ Boone said. “And we feel like, in Gary’s case, his ceiling is really, really special and it’s incumbent on all of us to help him realize that great potential I feel like he still has.”
Boone insisted Sanchez was better down the stretch than his stats might indicate.
“He was a different guy over the last month,’’ Boone said. “It was a struggle for him the first month of the season, his timing was off and he was chasing a lot. I felt like he improved a ton and was catching well over the last few weeks of the season.”
Sanchez had just one hit in the postseason after being supplanted by Higashioka, which Boone said again was the result of improved play from Higashioka more than poor performance from Sanchez.
As for Torres, the 23-year-old was inconsistent defensively in his move back to shortstop after the Yankees let Didi Gregorius go in free agency. Torres’ range leaves something to be desired and he at times had a propensity to make errors on easy plays.
Asked if Torres was the team’s shortstop going forward, Cashman didn’t say yes.
“We’re gonna evaluate all circumstances that best fit us,’’ the GM said. “He’s currently our shortstop. We think he’s capable of better defense.”
The Yankees don’t have a clear alternative at the spot unless they acquire another player to allow Torres to potentially slide back to second base.
“For Gleyber, it’s about becoming excellent at the routine,’’ Boone said. “That’s what separates really good shortstops from average to below-average. For Gleyber, it’s about making the routine play, day in and day out. That’s what’s gonna allow him to become a really good shortstop.”
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