LAS VEGAS — The Yankees keep getting tied to Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, and on Tuesday Brian Cashman did his best to cut those ties once and for all.
The general manager stated, as he has multiple times this offseason, that Gary Sanchez will be the club’s starting catcher next season.
“That’s our plan,” Cashman said.
Asked if he had made any inquiries to teams who might have a starting catcher available — the Marlins and Realmuto would head that list — Cashman simply said: “No.”
In other words, the Yankees have not asked the Marlins about Realmuto.
“I’ve certainly had people ask me about Gary Sanchez,” Cashman said. “But I fully expect him to be a part of our solution. There is no problem with him. He’s a big difference-maker in the fact that when we take the field and he’s in that lineup, there’s already a possession arrow our way because 90 percent of the other clubs do not have that type of caliber of player at that position. It’s a very difficult position in this game and we have one of the best at that position in this game.”
The 26-year-old Sanchez is coming off a miserable 2018. He twice was placed on the disabled list because of a right groin strain and slashed .186/.291/.406 with 18 homers and 53 RBIs. He played in just 89 games but still led the league in passed balls with 18.
Still, Cashman, as well as manager Aaron Boone, believe the real Sanchez is closer to the one who, in his first full season in the big leagues, hit .278 with 33 homers and an .876 OPS in 122 games (Sanchez also led the league in passed balls in 2017, this time with 16).
“Those of you that cover me all the time understand that I really love the player, I love the person,” Boone said.
Although Sanchez sometimes struggles catching balls, the Yankees don’t think he gets the credit he should for calling games, something their pitchers also have mentioned. And he continues to have one of the strongest arms in the game.
Sanchez, bothered by his left shoulder since 2017, had what the club called a “cleanup” procedure on the shoulder earlier this offseason. The plan is for him to be brought along at a deliberate pace in spring training but he easily should be ready for Opening Day. Cashman is beating the bushes for organizational catching depth as a result but, again, nothing that impacts Sanchez’s role.
“I think this year is going to be a huge year of growth for him,” Boone said. “And going through some of the challenges and adversity that he went through I think is going to make him a better player. He’s spent a lot of time in Tampa this winter. He’s already in very good shape, and I feel like he’s going to come back and have a really great season for us on both sides of the ball. I think we’re going to see a great player.”
As for his club’s true needs, Cashman remains engaged on the trade and free-agent front as he looks to add another starter, perhaps two bullpen pieces and infield depth with Didi Gregorius set to miss at least the first two months of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Cashman would not confirm a report from Tuesday afternoon saying a meeting with Manny Machado had been scheduled, but that would be the logical progression for a player Cashman has said he’ll pursue.
“I have a lot of lines out,” Cashman said of his activity here. “We’re still fishing and we’re going to keep trying to catch a very particular type of fish in very particular type of categories. But if not, we’ll bring the boat back to the dock and set her back tomorrow and drop our lines again.”