What does the Sanchez signing mean for Bart?

April 1st, 2023

NEW YORK -- The Giants held a four-man catching competition during Spring Training, but it became increasingly clear that they weren’t entirely comfortable with their options heading into the regular season. 

They made a late move to further bolster their depth on Friday, agreeing to a Minor League deal with two-time All-Star , who is expected to report to the club’s Spring Training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., to get built up before heading to Triple-A Sacramento. He will earn $4 million if he reaches the big leagues, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.   

Sanchez, 30, hit .205/.282/.377 (89 OPS+) with 16 homers and 61 RBIs over 128 games for the Twins, who acquired him and Gio Urshela from the Yankees in exchange for Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ben Rortvedt last March. 

Sanchez has been known as a bat-first catcher, but Giants manager Gabe Kapler said he received “solid, quality” reports on Sanchez’s defense, noting that he displayed improved framing numbers and a strong throwing arm with the Twins last year.

“We’ve been talking to and thinking about Gary for quite some time and had done a lot of work on him dating back to I think what was the middle of the offseason,” Kapler said Saturday. “Maybe even earlier. He was available and healthy, and we thought it was a good opportunity for us to add some depth on a guy that we feel like has a chance to make a contribution at the Major League level at some point.”

Sanchez will have the ability to opt out of his deal if he’s not promoted to the Majors by May 1, buying the Giants an extra month to evaluate their current catching corps, which includes former top prospect , veteran Roberto Pérez and Rule 5 Draft pick Blake Sabol.

Bart had been viewed as Buster Posey’s heir apparent since being selected with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2018 MLB Draft, but he hasn’t shown enough development to cement himself as San Francisco’s starting catcher. The Giants rushed Bart to the big leagues in 2020 after Posey elected to sit out the pandemic-shortened campaign, but he continued to struggle in his first full season in the Majors last year, posting a 35.5% strikeout rate and underwhelming with his defense.

The Giants offered Bart no assurances at the start of the spring, thrusting him into a wide-open competition alongside Pérez, Sabol and Austin Wynns. Bart ended up making the Opening Day roster, but he opened the season on the bench after the club elected to give Pérez the starting nod in Thursday’s 5-0 loss at Yankee Stadium.

Bart was expected to make his first start behind the plate on Saturday, but he was a late scratch with back tightness, prompting the Giants to insert the 34-year-old Pérez back into the lineup.

“I think every opportunity is important for Joey,” Kapler said. “I think that’s been true for the last couple of years. One thing I want to make abundantly clear is there’s nothing that would be more impactful for the San Francisco Giants than Joey being a great Major League catcher. It’s absolutely the best possible outcome for Joey and for the San Francisco Giants. We are pulling hard for that to happen.”

Despite the ups and downs, Kapler said he believes Bart remains in a good frame of mind as he enters another pivotal juncture in his career.

“I have been continually impressed by Joey’s professionalism and his confidence,” Kapler said. “I don’t think it’s an easy road to be challenged in any way, but I don’t think it’s impacted his confidence levels. I think he’s done a really, really good job of staying with his work and controlling the things that he can control.”