Prospect Gary Sanchez is sort of like the elephant in the room when it comes to New York Yankees catchers. He was often dubbed the “catcher of the future” for the bombers — that is, until the team signed veteran backstop Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million deal this offseason. Of the deal, people thought, great, but what does that mean for Sanchez? The truth is no one really knows.
Sanchez was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 and has been making his way through the minors ever since. He made it up to Double-A this year, impressing with his big bat and encouraging offensive numbers. He’s hit .275/.342/.468 in four years in the system, and many believe he’ll be big-league ready by 2015. He stands a good chance at a job in Triple-A Scranton this year.
The Yankees like the power behind Sanchez’s bat, but his defense could use a little work. Even if he’s not ready until 2016, that still leaves him out in the cold. McCann is signed through 2018 with a team option for 2019.
So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Just what is going to happen to Sanchez? My fear is that the Yankees are thinking trade. Not so long ago, the Yankees traded one of their star catching prospects – Jesus Montero – to the Seattle Mariners primarily for right-handed pitcher Michael Pineda.
There were two major problems with the Montero trade. First, the ROI has been nonexistent. Pineda has yet to pitch a big-league game due to injury. That’s not so much anyone’s fault, but it’s unfortunate nonetheless. The second and much larger problem is this habit the Yankees have of trading away their best homegrown talent.
The Yankees likely thought very seriously about trading outfielder Brett Gardner this offseason. And I believe they would have, for a pitcher, had the Masahiro Tanaka acquisition not materialized. “Homegrown” doesn’t seem to mean much to the Yankees, but it should.
Consistently successful baseball teams are built on a balanced model of good farm systems and savvy acquisitions. That’s just it. That’s the way to stay perennially competitive. Yankees’ managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has said he’s interested in bolstering the farm system, but the actions of the front office would suggest otherwise.
Look, if the Yankees win No. 28 this season, I’ll be as happy as anybody. And it’s true that they have won almost one out of every four World Series ever played. But times are changing. Moneyball happened. The Yankees missed the playoffs, twice, in six years. That’s a big deal for them.
My wish is that instead of panicking and spending $500 million in one offseason to wash away the bitter taste of an October-less campaign, the Yankees re-evaluate their model and put more of a premium on homegrown talent moving forward.