Gary Sanchez of the Yankees reacts after striking out during the...

Gary Sanchez of the Yankees reacts after striking out during the fifth inning against the Marlins at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 25. Credit: Getty Images/Sarah Stier

Brian Cashman has long been among Gary Sanchez’s biggest backers in the organization.

And while not distancing himself from the catcher, the GM also didn’t go as far Wednesday as he did last winter when discussing Sanchez: guaranteeing he’ll be the starting catcher in the spring.

Realistically, Cashman couldn’t provide that assurance; not after giving the go-ahead to have backup Kyle Higashioka start five of the club’s seven playoff games.

"It’s certainly a fair question the way Gary Sanchez’s season transpired," Cashman said during his season wrap-up news conference. "It’s one of the discussion points we’re going to have to focus on. Obviously this COVID season was unique. You saw a lot of unexpected performances throughout both leagues, from players that are capable of more. We have to determine if that [Sanchez’s year] was a byproduct of unique circumstances or more a reflection of what is to be expected [from the player] moving forward."

Though far from an outright rebuke, compare those comments to the ones Cashman made last November during the annual GM meetings.

"I think we have a distinct advantage by having Gary Sanchez as our everyday catcher," Cashman said then in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Asked point blank if Sanchez would enter spring training 2020 entrenched as the No. 1, Cashman didn’t hesitate.

"Oh, yeah," he said.

That won't be the case this spring after the nightmare season the 27-year-old Sanchez, signed at the age of 16 by the Yankees out of the Dominican, just experienced, slashing .147/.253/.365 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs in 49 games.

"We have to have those legitimate discussions that haven’t happened yet," Cashman said of the catching situation, which could include everything from Sanchez being non-tendered this offseason to getting traded to being brought back as the primary catcher. "I know Gary Sanchez is an extremely talented player…we’ll evaluate that particular position because we’ll be forced to now. That’ll be for another day."

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