In the weeks leading up to the 2015 trade deadline, the threesome of Yankees prospects earned the collective nickname of "The Untouchables" after general manager Brian Cashman essentially described them as such.
The trio — then-top organizational prospects Luis Severino, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge — would not be moved under any circumstances.
The context at the time was that Cashman had no interest in including any of them in a trade, a thought he bluntly shared with any opposing team general manager who inquired about them.
But Cashman has never gone down that road again in describing any of his players, whether in the minor leagues or big leagues.
As Cashman said at the annual general managers’ meetings in November 2015: "I don’t have anybody who’s untouchable. Some guys are more touchable than others, but at the end of the day, I am legitimately open to any idea."
It's something he’s repeated almost verbatim many times since.
Fast-forward to the present and the buzz surrounding beleaguered catcher Gary Sanchez. He's coming off far and away his worst season, and Cashman, true to those words, reportedly will listen to offers for a player he’s consistently defended in good times and bad.
What that ultimately means in terms of Sanchez getting moved isn’t clear, though it bears reiterating that Cashman publicly indicated questions about the catcher after the Yankees lost to the Rays in the Division Series. Backup catcher Kyle Higashioka started four of the five games in that series, including the deciding fifth game, a 2-1 loss.
"It’s certainly a fair question the way Gary Sanchez’s season transpired," Cashman said Oct. 14 during his 2020 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."
Cashman telegraphed then that he would be willing to listen. As one opposing team executive said Saturday: "Of course he’s listening. In this job, you better listen [to all possibilities]. If you don’t, you won’t have it [the job] long."
Whether that listening will lead to anything is unclear.
Sanchez, who will turn 28 on Dec. 2 and is arbitration-eligible, is coming off a miserable season in which he had a .147/.253/.365 slash line, 10 homers, 24 RBIs and 64 strikeouts in 156 at-bats (49 games). He also had his usual up-and-down performance defensively.
"He definitely still has trade value," another opposing team executive said in early October. "It’s not close to what it might have been, say, three years ago, but no one has catching [depth]. And there’s still the bat potential and the arm. Teams will inquire for sure."
A third executive described Sanchez as perhaps "the classic change-of-scenery guy."
"I think [Cashman] will have trouble trading him, but that will depend on the [asking price], too," the executive said. "The bottom line is, and everyone’s been talking about it for years, there’s such a [lack] of catching in the game . . . He’s still dangerous because of the bat and throwing arm."
Cashman’s after-season comments about Sanchez in October were not nearly as encouraging as his remarks from November 2019, when he said: "I think we have a distinct advantage by having Gary Sanchez as our everyday catcher." They shouldn’t be taken as the GM throwing up his hands, though.
"I know Gary Sanchez is an extremely talented player," Cashman said. "We’ll evaluate that particular position because we’ll be forced to now. That’ll be for another day."
A day, it seems, that is fast approaching.