Last week, it was reported that the Yankees have at least considered the idea of trading Gary Sanchez this offseason and moving in a new direction behind the plate.
It also just so happens that the Phillies have an opening behind their own plate now that J.T. Realmuto has entered free agency and looks increasingly unlikely to come back to Philadelphia. Putting all those dots together and connecting them, some have started to think about potential trade packages that would land Sanchez in the City of Brotherly Love. One such discussion landed here, with this theoretical trade deal getting completed.
Like the Nats, the catch is that the Phillies can’t spare a whole lot. Their major league roster is similarly short on depth, and there isn’t much in the club’s farm system after right-hander Spencer Howard—who’s slated to open the 2021 season in Philly’s starting rotation. In lieu of Howard, the Yankees would have to at least get 23-year-old righty Adonis Medina, who has a decent floor by way of three average-to-above-average pitches. But the Yankees would also need another piece, preferably one with more upside. Damon Jones, a 6’5” lefty with a plus fastball-curveball combination, could potentially be that guy.
The Deal: Phillies get C Gary Sanchez; Yankees get RHP Adonis Medina and LHP Damon Jones
Let’s start with the idea of Sanchez getting traded to the Phillies in the first place, then we can discuss what might actually have to go back to New York in return.
First of all, why would the Phillies want Sanchez? After all, if you go by the catching metrics available at Baseball Prospectus, Sanchez was one of the worst defensive catchers in the majors last year. His -0.9 CDA (Catcher Defensive Adjustment) was 88th among 99 qualified catchers in the majors last season. Without getting too much in the weeds, I can also report to you that his blocking of balls in the dirt was also one of the worst in the game last year, something that any Yankees fan can tell you is not inaccurate. His framing ability was actually just one tick above average in 2020 (0.1 CSAA), a marked improvement over what it has been in the past, but still, put together as one package, it paints the picture of a defensive issue at catcher.
Getting to the offensive side of things, the numbers are....offensive. Take a look at Sanchez’s slide with the bat the past few years since his 2016 debut:
Gary Sanchez in MLB
2020 is a big, big decline in a offense for a player whose sole value right now is with the bat. He still hits the ball really, really hard, but he’s increasingly missing the ball whenever he does swing, something that negates that prodigious ability to hit the ball hard.
What’s really concerning about Sanchez is what the pitchers are throwing him. Judging from what happened this year as opposed to the past, he had trouble catching up to velocity, seeing his highest percentage of fastballs and lowest percentage of breaking stuff and offspeed stuff in some time.
If Sanchez cannot continue to hit fastballs with any kind of authority (mind you, his numbers dropped against all pitchers and not just fastballs), that is going to be an issue for him in the future as the game continues to trend in the direction of hard throwers.
So, let’s get back to that original offer.
If the Phillies were to lose Realmuto to free agency and the Phillies traded for Sanchez, would trading Medina and Jones be wise?
Well, let’s think about this past season. When the team was stacked with multiple doubleheaders in a week, they didn’t have enough starting pitching depth to be able to call up guys from the alternate site, meaning they needed to rely in relievers starting games. Not the worst strategy with games only going seven innings, but with 2021 dawning soon without the need for those doubleheaders (so far), they will need some arms in the minors to call up at the drop of a hat.
They’re also staring down the barrel of one, possibly two, empty rotation spots heading into the new season and both of those gentlemen are candidates internally. If they decide to head in that direction rather than choose the free agency route, they represent the best they can offer right now of major league ready arms. They aren’t something the team should be looking to trade in return for a catcher that has slipped mightily with the bat and behind the plate.
Now, were the team to acquire him for something a little lighter as a package, then there would be something to talk about. Sanchez struggles at pitch framing and blocking balls in the dirt, skills the Phillies are documented as being able to improve in a player (check Realmuto and Jorge Alfaro’s before and after numbers with the Phillies and Marlins). Sanchez could represent something of a project where the catching instruction could bring him up to at least an average glove behind the plate. Were his offense to rebound to something resembling what he did in 2019, that’s not a bad asset to have on the team. The price would have to be right (Medina and Jones ain’t it), but even then, it’s probably best for the team to go in another direction, either a different trade target or the free agency route.
While Sanchez could represent a good “buy low” candidate, take away the New York marquee that is attached to any player that plays there and you’re looking at a player that would be nontendered anywhere else. So when we see these types of rumors circulating, they’re worth investigating. Digging in a bit on Sanchez, you see why the rumor gets brushed aside.