The Yankees have reportedly been engaged with the Marlins about making a trade for All-Star backstop, J.T. Realmuto, which minimally suggests that New York is getting antsy with its 26-year-old catcher.
Passed ball after passed ball, wild pitch after wild pitch, all that Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez had produced with his bat since his call-up in 2016 began to fade away in 2018. As the lethal offense screeched to a virtual halt, the wheels seemingly began to spin for the Yankees' front office in reference to Sanchez's future with the club.
It is understandable for the Yankees to question Sanchez's future, but here is why the organization should not trade him in a deal for Realmuto...
Yankees have seen the upside; there could be more
Sanchez is not far removed from an amazing two-month introduction to the majors and an exceptional sophomore season. During the span of 750 plate appearances in 2016 and 2017, he hit .286 with a ,356 on-base percentage and a .572 slugging percentage -- good for a 143 wRC+ mark. Sanchez belted 53 home runs and drove in 132 runs during the period.
While the 2018 season didn't go as planned, Sanchez still flashed power -- 18 home runs in 374 plate appearances. Sanchez battled a ridiculously low batting average on balls in play (.197), which was well off the .310 mark (slightly above MLB average) he established in his first two seasons. Last season was the first professional campaign in which Sanchez struggled at the plate (he consistently graded above-average offensively in the minors as well), which completely exacerbated his work with the gear on.
Sanchez led MLB with 18 passed balls and allowed another 54 wild pitches. He threw out 30 percent of potential base stealers in 2018, and owns a 36.4 percent career mark. Sanchez turned in a positive mark in runs above average in regard to pitch framing in 2018 (+3.3) according to StatCorner, which helped boost his defensive runs saved mark of +6, despite the passed balls issue.
In the end, it's harder to ignore the massive number of passed balls and wild pitches getting by when the offense is virtually as poor, and thus the Yankees are seemingly conducting due diligence on Realmuto.
Realmuto can hit, but he's not exactly Yadier Molina behind the dish
Realmuto, who will play 2019 at 28 years old, has been a consistent above-average hitter, hovering between 107 and 126 wRC+ over this last three seasons. He hit .277 with a .340 on-base percentage and .484 slugging percentage in 531 plate appearances in 2018. He launched 21 home runs in 2018 -- the first time he eclipsed 20 in a season. These are solid numbers, but the prodigious power that Sanchez possesses is not there and likely won't suddenly develop.
For the Yankees to strongly consider a swap, one would assume that Realmuto's defense would have to be much better than Sanchez's to warrant abandoning their homegrown catcher. Well, that's not the case.
Behind the plate, Realmuto has averaged nine passed balls and 41 wild pitches allowed in his four full seasons, while throwing out would be base stealers 32.9 percent of the time. Realmuto is a terrible pitch-framer according to StatCorner data, with his best season being in 2015 when he graded -14.6 runs below average. As such, Realmuto does not grade well in overall advanced defensive metrics, with marks of 1, -13, -5 and -7 defensive runs saved respectively since 2015.
Player control and trade parameters don't favor Yankees
The Yankees would have to weigh the fact that Sanchez has four more years of team control versus Realmuto's two years. Realmuto is set to make approximately $6.1 million in 2019 according to MLB Trade Rumors, while Sanchez is not yet arbitration eligible. Further, rumors have it that the Marlins would not only expect Sanchez in a deal, but top prospects as well. After reviewing the above, it is not an easy sell to swap the players in a one-for-one deal, let alone add prospects to the mix.
Sanchez had an incredibly disappointing 2018 season. His defensive issues got worse instead of improving, and his offense was not nearly good enough to look past the fielding woes. But despite the down season, he continues to have tremendous upside at the plate, and there have been spurts of defensive play that demonstrated he can improve. Realmuto is certainly the hot catching ticket on the market. But when measured in full against Sanchez, the perceived upgrade isn't substantial enough -- if at all -- to recommend the Yankees pursue this deal.