NEW YORK -- The Yankees are preparing to hold their pro scouting meetings early next week, when their braintrust will meet at Yankee Stadium and consider the dozens of players who might be a fit to wear pinstripes. Based upon general manager Brian Cashman’s opinion of Gary Sánchez's season, a
NEW YORK -- The Yankees are preparing to hold their pro scouting meetings early next week, when their braintrust will meet at Yankee Stadium and consider the dozens of players who might be a fit to wear pinstripes. Based upon general manager Brian Cashman’s opinion of Gary Sánchez's season, a new starting catcher will not be among the topics of discussion.
“I thought Gary Sanchez had a great season, outside of the injuries,” Cashman said. “Gary is part of the solution.”
Sanchez led all Major League catchers with 34 homers during the regular season, compiling a .232/.316/.525 slash line with 77 RBIs in 106 games. The 26-year-old missed time with left calf and left groin injuries before returning for the postseason, when Sanchez hit .129 (4-for-31) with a homer and three RBIs in nine games against the Twins and Astros.
“He didn't swing the bat as much as he capable of, but he's one of the biggest difference makers at that position in the game,” Cashman said. “I think Gary has been a big plus for us and one of the reasons why we've been able to excel.”
While Sanchez’s defense has been a hot-button issue for years, Cashman lauded Sanchez’s work behind the plate as one reason why the Yankees were able to hold the Astros to 21 runs and a .179 team batting average across the six American League Championship Series contests.
“Gary's a big part of that,” Cashman said. “He follows the game plan, he executes the game plan. He limited the Astros to two stolen bases the whole series, and they're a very aggressive baserunning team. ... When I say our pitching did a great job during that series, Gary is a big part of the reason why in how he called those games and how he kept changing the signs to make sure that we're protecting our pitch selections. I just thought he did a remarkable job. I don't think he gets the credit that he's due.”
While Sanchez appears to be a lock to return as the Bombers’ catcher, Austin Romine is eligible for free agency. If Romine signs elsewhere, Kyle Higashioka would be in line to serve as the backup catcher.
Glass half full
In the wake of the Game 6 loss to the Astros, outfielder Aaron Judge characterized the season as “a failure” because the Yankees did not reach their stated goal of a 28th World Series championship.
Five days later, Cashman and manager Aaron Boone offered softer assessments of a campaign in which the Yanks won 103 regular season games to claim their first AL East title since 2012, then won five more games in the postseason.
“We failed in our ultimate goal and dream of the [World Series] championship, but I wouldn't dismiss all the tremendous things that occurred during the journey,” Cashman said. “I’m real proud about a lot of the things our operation has accomplished, with the crew we accomplished it, our manager, our coaches, our players, having to plug and play and adjust along the way. ... We failed in our final goal, but we didn't have a failed season in my opinion.”
Boone said that he sees the Yankees as “desperately chasing” and “relentlessly in pursuit” of a championship.
“We feel like we have a core of players and a team that's probably on a very short list of truly capable of going out and doing that, so that's the focus,” Boone said. “We fell short of that this year because we certainly felt like we had a team capable of possibly doing that. Failure, success? That's for people to define. We did a lot of amazing things this year. But ultimately, we want to be holding that trophy up here in the next week or so and we didn't get there so that's something you take with you and you’ve got to live with.”
Cashman said it was his decision to continue carrying Giancarlo Stanton on the ALCS roster, despite what the GM revealed on Thursday was a Grade 2 right quadriceps strain. During the regular season, that injury would have required an injured list stint, but replacing Stanton on the roster would have made him ineligible to play in a potential World Series.
“I weighed that with being more valuable than replacing them with somebody else on the roster to come in and sit on the bench,” Cashman said. “I thought the upside of waiting on having the healing process kick in and have Stanton available for the next round if we were fortunate enough to get there overshadowed replacing Stanton with a bench player.”
The Yanks set a Major League record with 30 players on the injured list (39 stints) this season. Cashman was not prepared to announce any changes to the medical or training staffs, but he said that the organization has been executing a “CSI: The Bronx”-style investigation into the underlying reasons, including the unsuccessful rehabs of players like Luis Severino and Dellin Betances.
“Some are the area of focus is going to be in the areas that might have been preventable,” Cashman said. “Are they preventable? Is there something that we're missing? Is there something that in our process that is faulty? And I can assure you that has been a laser focus. If there are any changes, you will eventually be made aware of them.”
With Aaron Hicks undergoing Tommy John surgery on Oct. 30, the Yankees will be looking to identify their Opening Day center fielder. It could spell a return for potential free agent Brett Gardner, but will almost certainly not be Jacoby Ellsbury, who has not played since October 2017 due to a variety of injuries, including recovery from left hip surgery performed in August 2018.
“Based on how things have played out, right now, he's not someone that's in a position, health-wise, for me to be answering in the affirmative at this time,” Cashman said.
Jose Altuve’s AL pennant-winning homer in Game 6 made Boone the first person in Major League history to hit a walk-off homer to end a postseason series (2003 ALCS vs. Boston), then have one hit against the team he was managing.
“The other side is better,” Boone said. “They can cause the ultimate pain and the ultimate joy, depending on what side you are of it.”
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.