Eddy: Yankees sign Vinnie Pestano, three others to minor league contracts

Pestano. (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)
Pestano. (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

The Yankees have started filling the gaps in the upper levels of the farm system. Matt Eddy reports the team has signed righty reliever Vinnie Pestano, outfielder Cesar Puello, catcher Sebastian Valle, and lefty Richard Bleier to minor league contracts. I assume Pestano received an invite to big league Spring Training. Not sure about the others.

Pestano, 30, is the most notable of the bunch. He spent most of last season in Triple-A with the Angels, pitching to a 2.10 ERA (2.58 FIP) in 34.1 innings. Pestano also threw 11.2 ineffective innings with the big league team (nine runs and 23 base-runners). What are the odds his grandmother calls him Vincent? Like 99.8%, right? Definitely.

Anyway, a few years ago Pestano had a great season as a setup man with the Indians, pitching to a 2.32 ERA (2.67 FIP) in 62 innings in 2011. He had a strong follow-up season in 2012 (2.57 ERA and 3.42 FIP) but has struggled since, posting a 3.97 ERA (4.79 FIP) in 65.2 innings for the Indians and Halos while spending a bunch of time in Triple-A.

The Yankees subtracted Adam Warren and Justin Wilson and added Aroldis Chapman this offseason, so while they could use bullpen help, but I wouldn’t pencil Pestano into the Opening Day roster just yet. I think he’s nothing more than a depth arm, one who might not even get through Spring Training if he doesn’t impress. If anything, Pestano may be the guy who fills in at Triple-A if a few of the relief prospects who spent 2015 on the shuttle make the big league team.

Puello, 24, is a former top Mets prospects who got caught up in the Biogenesis scandal a few years ago. In fact, Eddy notes Puello is the only player suspended for his ties to Biogenesis who has yet to play in MLB. Puello played only one game this past season, going 0-for-3 in a rookie ball contest. He missed the season with a stress fracture in his back and was released in late-August.

Puello. (Sarah Glenn/Getty)
Puello. (Sarah Glenn/Getty)

When healthy and not suspended, Puello hit .252/.355/.393 (98 wRC+) with seven homers and 13 steals in 105 Triple-A games in 2014. Baseball America ranked him as the No. 77 prospect in the game way back in 2011, one spot ahead of Andrew Brackman. How about that? “(Puello is an) average runner with the instincts to play all three outfield posts capably … His minor league track record suggests he could platoon against lefthanders,” wrote Baseball America in their 2015 Prospect Handbook, when they ranked him the No. 26 prospect in the Mets system.

The Yankees are loaded with Triple-A outfielders at the moment, even with Jake Cave going to the Reds in the Rule 5 Draft. Some combination of Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Aaron Judge, Ben Gamel, and Tyler Austin figures to be the Triple-A outfield next year, though one of those guys could end up on the MLB bench. Puello might be ticketed for Double-A Trenton, where the Yankees lack outfield options.

The 25-year-old Valle hit .279/.341/.413 (118 wRC+) in 70 Double-A games with the Phillies this past season. They originally signed him out of Mexico in 2006. As with nearly every catcher the Yankees acquire these days, Valle has a reputation for being a strong defender. My guess is he will open next season with Double-A Trenton. The Yankees don’t have an obvious everyday catcher for the level at the moment.

Bleier, 28, is a journeyman who’s spent the last few years bouncing around different organizations. He had a 2.57 ERA (3.32 FIP) in 171.2 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A with the Nationals in 2015. Bleier is an extreme control pitcher: he had a 9.5% strike rate (!) and a 2.4 walk rate this past season. Either the Yankees are going to try Bleier in relief (he’s done that before) or he’s just an innings guy for Double-A and Triple-A next year.

In addition to these four, the Yankees also signed catcher Eddy Rodriguez and infielder Pete Kozma to minor league deals this offseason. I’m sure they’ll sign a few more players to minor league contracts in the coming weeks. They’re said to be looking for a starting pitcher and will need some Triple-A infielders since both Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda were in the Chapman trade. The Yankees usually don’t announce their non-roster invitees until early-February, so it’ll be a while until these deals are made official.

Offseason moves will help the Yankees use the entire field going forward

(Andy Lyons/Getty)
(Andy Lyons/Getty)

By now it’s no secret the Yankees are one of the most pull happy teams in baseball, which is why they see so many infield shifts. Their 44.4% pull rate this past season was the highest in baseball by more than a full percentage point (Blue Jays were second at 43.3%). Over the last three years the Yankees have a 41.6% pull rate, fifth highest in baseball. (Interestingly, three of the four teams ahead of them are AL East clubs. The Red Sox are the AL East club not in the top five.)

Part of this is absolutely by design. The short right field porch at Yankee Stadium rewards left-handed batters who pull the ball, so the Yankees have targeted those kinds of hitters in both big (Brian McCann) and small (Kelly Johnson, etc.) moves. There’s now a stigma associated with pulling the ball due to the increased use of shifts, which is unfair. Pulling the ball is the best way to hit for power — the MLB average was a .267 ISO when pulling the ball in 2015. It was .142 when going the other way.

That said, there’s an obvious benefit to having a diverse offense. It can be pretty easy to defend a team of pull hitters, especially when the few hitters capable of spraying the ball all around aren’t at their best. We saw this in the second half this summer. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are the team’s two best all-fields hitters and when they stopped hitting, the offense was one batted ball to the right side of the field after another. That’s a problem.

“I love home runs as much as the next guy – and, in fact, probably more – but there needs to be a little added dimension to us offensively, and we have those guys in place to do that,” said hitting coach Alan Cockrell to Chad Jennings earlier this offseason. “I’m not going to say playing the game like the Kansas City Royals did, but the little things that add a dimension to a club that pitchers just don’t want to face you.”

There is still half an offseason to go, but right now it appears the Yankees will bring back largely the same offense next year. Teaching guys like McCann and Mark Teixeira to not pull the ball just isn’t going to happen at this point of their careers. Both tried to go the other way more often in recent years — McCann in 2014, Teixeira in 2012 — and it had a negative impact on their production. They are who they are. Let them be.

The Yankees did, however, add two new offensive pieces this offseason, and both stand to help the Yankees diversify their offense. Starlin Castro is the most notable offensive pickup and he’s historically used all fields in his career. In fact, a week ago we looked at an adjustment he made to his stance that better allowed him to use the entire field after he fell into a rut trying to pull everything. Castro’s right-handedness and ability to go the other way are welcome additions to the lineup.

The Yankees also added Aaron Hicks earlier this winter. Hicks only projects to be platoon player at this point, but the guy he replaced, Chris Young, is one of the most extreme pull hitters on record. (Batted ball data goes back to 2002.) Hicks is a switch-hitter and his batted ball profile is pretty interesting. It matches up well with what the Yankees would like to see from their hitters.

Aaron Hicks batted ball

As a left-handed batter (vs. R), Hicks pulls the ball a little more often, so he is in position to take advantage of the short porch. But, as a right-handed batter (vs. L), Hicks is an all-fields guy who actually goes the other way more than he pulls the ball. Hicks figures to platoon in the lefty heavy outfield and will see most of his action against southpaws, so his all-fields approach as a right-handed batter will give the offense a much different look than it had with Young.

Brian Cashman said the Yankees will look to diversify their offense following the season — “The method to signing Jake and Gardy were to be table-setters, to be those guys who can get on base and wreak havoc … It was supposed to start changing the evolution of the picture of this team being only home run oriented,” he said to Jennings — and the additions of Castro and Hicks are a step in that direction. Their batted ball profiles aren’t a coincidence. They were targeted for a reason. (Many reasons, really.)

The Yankees are always going to be a home run hitting team. That’s their identity. They’re the Bronx Bombers because their ballparks have always been conducive to dingers, particularly to right field. The current incarnation of Yankee Stadium is the most extreme example. It would be foolish to shy away from that homer hitting identity given their ballpark. Homers are very good. The Yankees should continue hitting lots of them. Hitting the ball out of the park is what the Yankees do.

At the same time, the Yankees have run the risk of being too one-dimensional in recent years. There’s always been a kernel of truth behind the #toomanyhomers movement that never did get expressed properly. There is no such thing as hitting too many homers, but there is such a thing as not scoring enough runs in other ways. With simple base hits becoming harder to come by these days thanks to the shift, the need to diversify the offense and add players who can hit to all fields became too great for the Yankees to ignore.

“We need to talk about the culture of what we are offensively and how we have players in place to have an even better offense,” added Cockrell. “Those types of things will be things we’ll talk about this winter and things we’ll address in Spring Training.”

Sanchez: Cuban righty Yaisel Sierra declared a free agent

(MLB.com screen grab)
(MLB.com screen grab)

According to Jesse Sanchez, Cuban right-hander Yaisel Sierra has been declared a free agent by MLB and is now able to negotiate and sign with any team. That means he’s already gone through the process of getting unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control as well.

Sierra, 24, impressed during a showcase event earlier this offseason and has reportedly been visiting interested teams these last few weeks. It’s unclear if the Yankees have any interest but, to be fair, no teams have been connected to Sierra yet. His market is a big mystery right now. The showcase reportedly drew approximately 350 talent evaluators, for what it’s worth.

In parts of five seasons in Cuba, Sierra had a 4.23 ERA with a 16.5% strikeout rate and a 12.4% walk rate in exactly 300 innings. That includes a 6.10 ERA with a 18.6% strikeout rate and a 10.5% walk rate in 62 innings in 2014, his last season before defecting. Keep in mind Sierra was a boy playing against men for much of his career. Here’s a recent mini-scouting report from Ben Badler (subs. req’d):

Everything looks good, with a nice frame, clean arm action, a lively fastball that sat 91-94 mph in Cuba and touched 96 (and has since been up to 97) while flashing an above-average slider. In Cuba, Sierra would sometimes use a splitter that could be an effective swing-and-miss pitch against lefties, though he’s scrapped it now for a changeup instead.

Badler says Sierra has settled on one arm slot — he used to throw from all different angles a la Orlando Hernandez — and notes he has been held back by his “poor command and pitchability,” which would be easier to stomach if he were still a teenage pitching prospect and not in his mid-20s.

Because of his age, Sierra is not subject to the international spending restrictions, which means the Yankees or any other team can pay him any amount. He’s a big league free agent, basically. The Yankees can not pay any international amateur players age 23 or younger a bonus larger than $300,000 until July 2017 due to the penalties associated with their spending spree a few years ago.

The Yankees are said to be looking for a young starter they can control beyond 2017, so, if nothing else, Sierra is an option who wasn’t available when the offseason began. Badler’s scouting report doesn’t exactly scream “must sign,” plus there’s a chance the “poor command and pitchability” mean Sierra’s future lies in the bullpen. (He pitched in relief a bunch in Cuba, including in 2014.)

The Reds signed Cuban righty Raisel Iglesias to a seven-year contract worth $27M last offseason, which I suppose gives us a ballpark contract estimate for Sierra. Seven years is a long time! That’s not a lot of money though, even if Sierra winds up in the bullpen. The Yankees haven’t signed a big name Cuban player since Jose Contreras, though Sierra’s not some kind of no-brainer pickup in my opinion. Just someone to consider.

Thoughts following the Aroldis Chapman trade

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)
(Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Yesterday afternoon the Yankees made their most significant trade in quite some time, sending four prospects to the Reds for Aroldis Chapman. It was a classic out of nowhere Yankees move. It looked like we were headed for another slow offseason day then BAM, Chapman’s a Yankee. Crazy. I have thoughts. Here they are.

1. I think it’s pretty gross the Yankees essentially used a domestic violence incident to buy low on a player. That’s how I feel. You’re welcome to feel differently. The Dodgers had a deal in place for Chapman earlier this offseason, then backed away when news of the incident got out. (Here’s the story if you haven’t seen it.) The Reds then dropped their asking price — Brian Cashman confirmed it during a conference call yesterday — and the Yankees swooped in. There are a lot of people out there whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence and I think turning a blind eye to it sends a very bad message. Pro sports teams — it’s not just baseball, it happens in every sport — have shown time and time again they will overlook stuff like this as long as the player is good enough. I’d like to think the Yankees hold themselves to higher standards but it’s clear they don’t. It’s one thing for a player to be a jerk and difficult to get along with. Allegations of domestic violence are much more serious. Not a good look, Yankees.

2. Joel Sherman said yesterday the Yankees expect Chapman to receive some kind of suspension under the league’s new domestic violence policy. It’s a brand new policy and no one has been suspended yet, so there’s no precedent or anything. Commissioner Rob Manfred could decide to make a big opening statement and hand down a long suspension, or it could be a little 10-15 game ban. Under the domestic violence policy, suspended players do not accrue service time, so a suspension lasting at least 46 days (give or take) would delay Chapman’s free agency another year. More importantly, the Yankees might not actually have their new lefty relief co-ace come Opening Day. There’s a lot of offseason left, so MLB is in no rush to make an announcement. It might be another month or two before we know what kind of suspension Chapman is looking at, if any.

3. The whole “focus on high-character players with good makeup and squeaky clean images” thing has gone out the window, huh? The Yankees have put a lot of emphasis on makeup in recent years — it extended down into the minors and the draft as well — but this offseason they’ve acquired Chapman and Starlin Castro despite their history of off-the-field issues. Even Aaron Hicks had a reputation for being a bit of a headache with the Twins. It almost seems like the Yankees have decided to focus on pure talent during this phase of their on-the-fly rebuild and worry about the clubhouse aspects later. Either that or they’re comfortable enough with the clubhouse that they feel they can bring in guys with some baggage and not have it be an issue. Just seems weird they were so focused on character guys for a few years and now have done a complete 180, and are targeting players with the exact opposite reputation.

4. As for the baseball aspect of the trade, it is pretty low risk for the Yankees. Worst case scenario is what, Chapman blows out his arm in Spring Training and never throws a pitch in pinstripes? That kind of risk exists with every pitcher. Chapman’s never had any serious arm problems — he did miss time with a sore shoulder five years ago when the Reds tried him in the rotation — and his injury risk is no greater than anyone else’s. The Yankees gave up two good but not great prospects (Eric Jagielo, Rookie Davis) and two throw-ins (Caleb Cotham, Tony Renda) for the most dominant reliever in baseball. They didn’t even give up someone off their big league roster. (I guess Cotham, but you know what I mean.) For even just one year of Chapman, that’s a bargain baseman price. If Chapman gets hurt, it would really suck, but the Yankees would not be out any significant prospects. More than likely, he’ll be overwhelmingly dominant, it’ll be a blast to watch, and the Yankees won’t miss anyone they traded to the Reds. From a pure baseball perspective, this is a fantastic trade for New York. They made out like bandits.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

5. Yes, adding Chapman makes it easier for the Yankees to trade Andrew Miller, but I don’t think this trade was made because the team has a Miller deal lined up. This was just an opportunity to get better on the field the Yankees couldn’t pass up given the price. Jeff Passan says the Yankees were “very, very close” to trading Miller to the Astros earlier this offseason, and I think Cashman would have moved Miller with or without Chapman. They might still trade Miller, there’s lots of offseason left, but I don’t think the motivation behind adding Chapman was to make Miller more expendable. Nah. The Yankees want to pair Chapman with Miller (and Dellin Betances), but if someone comes along and knocks their socks off with an offer, they’ll move Miller because, again, it will be an opportunity to get better.

6. This trade answers any questions about whether the Yankees want to contend next season. This is a win now deal. Chapman will be a free agent next offseason and yeah, the Yankees can slap the qualifying offer on him and get a draft pick, but that’s a minor consideration. (A supplemental first round pick isn’t worth that much.) The Yankees are trying to balance winning with rebuilding, and after making a series of moves focused on getting younger (Castro, Hicks, Didi Gregorius, etc.), this if the first no-doubt win now move the club has made since all those free agent signings during the 2013-14 offseason (Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, etc.). The Yankees want to win. They also want to get younger and more flexible long-term. Chapman addresses only the former.

7. With both Jagielo and Renda going to Cincinnati, the Yankees are going to have to look into bringing in some infielders on minor league contracts in the coming weeks. (They did sign Pete Kozma earlier this offseason.) Those two were slated to start at Triple-A Scranton, so they were upper level depth. Rob Refsnyder will likely start the season with the RailRiders, so he’ll be at second base, but they don’t have a third baseman now. Don’t expect a big name because again, we’re talking about Triple-A infielders, not someone who will push for playing time at the big league level. It’s going to be someone just trying to hang around and extend his career. Looking at the list of minor league free agents, someone like Conor Gillaspie could be a Triple-A third base candidate. The Yankees just need bodies to replace Jagielo and Renda now. They were thin on upper level infielders before and that is especially true now.

8. Last offseason I really had no idea who would close — I figured it would be Betances or Miller, I just wasn’t sure which one — but right now I’m almost certain Chapman will be the closer next year. He’s been doing it for a few years now and elite closers usually don’t lose the ninth inning until their lose effectiveness. Chapman hasn’t. Miller has only been with the team for a year too, so it’s not like Chapman is coming in and bumping a stalwart like Mariano Rivera from the closer’s role. (For what it’s worth, Cashman said he spoke to Miller before the trade was announced just to let him know it was going down.) Chapman will close while Betances and Miller raise hell in the seventh and eighth innings. Joe Girardi loves to assign his relievers specific innings, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he matched up with those two, using Miller against the lefty heavy portions of the lineup and Betances against the righties. If that means Miller pitches the seventh inning some nights instead of the eighth, so be it. And, by the way, the Yankees are now in position to have their fifth different primary closer in five years. The post-Rivera era is weird.

9. I’m one of those people who thinks WAR underestimates — dramatically so, in some cases — the value of relievers, but humor me for a second. There’s a chance the Yankees can have three +2.5 WAR relievers in 2016. Betances managed 3.7 WAR in 2015, which is insane, while Chapman and Miller were at 2.7 and 2.2, respectively. (Miller missed a month with a forearm injury, remember.) All three getting to 2.5 WAR in 2016 isn’t far-fetched. Only three bullpens in history have had three +2.5 WAR relievers, and one was the 1982 Red Sox, back when bullpen usage was far different. (The three relievers all threw at least 102.1 innings.) The 2014 Royals and 1995 Rockies (???) also did it. That 1982 BoSox team is the only team in history with three +3.0 WAR relievers. The Yankees have an outside chance at that next year. By the way, the last team with two +3.0 WAR relievers? The 2011 Yankees with Mo and David Robertson. Imagine having Rivera and Robertson, and then adding another Robertson. That’s pretty much the 2016 Yankees.

10. Right now there are three open bullpen spots. Chapman, Miller, and Betances account for three of the seven spots and Ivan Nova will get one of the others unless he’s needed in the rotation. Nova could always be traded but I think the Yankees end up hanging on to him. He seems more valuable as rotation depth than anything the team could realistically get in return. Nova as the fourth relievers means there are three empty spots with no shortage of candidates. Chasen Shreve might have a leg up on everyone else given his first five months this past season, and then you have Jacob Lindgren, Bryan Mitchell, Nick Rumbelow, Nick Goody, Branden Pinder, and James Pazos. We could even throw Johnny Barbato and Luis Cessa into that mix. Never say never, but I would be surprised if the Yankees made another significant bullpen addition this offseason. They have the big three at the end, Nova as the long man, and then three spots for the kids.

Monday Night Open Thread

Remember when the Yankees were having a slow offseason? Good times. They swung their fourth trade of the winter earlier today, sending four non-top prospects to the Reds for Aroldis Chapman. I can’t say I saw this coming, but I don’t think it is completely surprising either. The Yankees tried to get Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline, so the idea of building a super bullpen has been in their mind for a while. The price on Chapman dropped and they struck. Brian Cashman‘s been buying low on dudes since last offseason. That’s his thing.

Anyway, this is your open thread for the evening. The Bengals and Broncos are the Monday Night Football Game, and you’ve also got the (hockey) Rangers, the Nets, and a bunch of college basketball tonight. Talk about those games or anything else here.

Yankees acquire Aroldis Chapman from Reds in five-player trade


The best end-game bullpen in baseball just got even better. The Yankees have acquired left-hander Aroldis Chapman from the Reds for four prospects, the team announced. Third baseman Eric Jagielo, righty Rookie Davis, righty Caleb Cotham, and second baseman Tony Renda are going to Cincinnati in the four-for-one swap. Both teams have announced the trade, so it’s a done deal. Official.

For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman confirmed the plan is add Chapman to Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances to form a Murderer’s Throw (h/t @rileysteele11) bullpen, not trade someone away. “We completed this trade with the intent of having Chapman, Miller, and Betances as a real force in the back-end of the bullpen,” said the GM on a conference call with reporters.

Chapman, 27, is currently being investigated by MLB under the new domestic violence policy due to an incident that occurred in October. Tim Brown and Jeff Passan have the details. Long story short, Chapman’s girlfriend said he choked her and threw her against a wall during an argument. He also fired eight shots in the garage of his Miami home. No arrests were made.

Cashman said the Yankees did their “due diligence” before the trade and noted the Reds had “modified” their “price point” in recent weeks, meaning they lowered their asking price following the incident. The incident caused a deal that would have sent Chapman to the Dodgers to fall apart a few weeks ago. MLB is investigating and there’s a chance Chapman may be suspended.

Chapman is currently scheduled to become a free agent next offseason and a suspension of at least 46 days would delay his free agency another year. The domestic violence policy is new so no precedents have been set yet. We’ll see what happens. MLBTR projects Chapman to earn $12.9M through arbitration next year, so it’s a hefty salary by reliever standards, but it is only a one-year commitment. (For now, anyway.)

On the field, Chapman is the hardest thrower in baseball history and one of the most dominant relievers in the game. He used a fastball that averaged 100.4 mph (!) to post a 1.63 ERA (1.94 FIP) and 116 strikeouts in 66.1 innings this past season. That 41.7% strikeout rate was actually Chapman’s lowest since his rookie season in 2011. He’s struck out 45.0% of the batters he’s faced the last four seasons. That’s just bonkers.

For all intents and purposes, the trade is Chapman for Jagielo and Davis. Cotham and Renda are basically throw-ins. Cotham was a 27-year-old rookie this past season who was stuck in an organization with more upper level bullpen depth than they know what to do with. Renda, who came over from the Nationals in the David Carpenter trade this summer, is a light-hitting contact guy whose arm relegates him to second base. He went unselected in the Rule 5 Draft a few weeks ago.

Jagielo, 23, was New York’s first round pick in 2013 (26th overall) and is the best prospect in the trade, in my opinion. He hit .284/.347/.495 (141 wRC+) with nine homers in 58 Double-A games this past season before jamming his knee sliding into home plate in June and needing season-ending arthroscopic surgery. The knee and an oblique strain have limited Jagielo to 143 games the last two years.

The 22-year-old Davis broke out with High-A Tampa this past season, pitching to a 3.70 ERA (2.22 FIP) in 97.1 innings before a late-season bump to Double-A Trenton. He was the Yankees’ 14th round pick in 2011. Davis is a huge guy (listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 lbs.) with a mid-90s fastball and a curveball. He made significant strides with his command in 2015 and earned himself a spot on the 40-man roster after the season.

The Yankees traded away Justin Wilson and Adam Warren earlier this offseason and Chapman more than makes up for the loss of Wilson. The team does still need rotation help however, preferably someone they could rely on to soak up innings. Betances, Miller, and Chapman are a hell of a thing, but Joe Girardi doesn’t want to have to use them every single day either.

Incorporating Gary Sanchez and the need to reduce Brian McCann’s workload going forward

(Mitchell Layton/Getty)
(Mitchell Layton/Getty)

Last month, when the Yankees shipped John Ryan Murphy to the Twins for Aaron Hicks, it created a clear path for Gary Sanchez to get Major League playing time. If not right away next season, then at some point in the near future. Murphy is no longer around representing an obstacle. A big league roster spot is Sanchez’s for the taking.

“I really like Gary Sanchez. I’m hopeful with his high-end ability he can be a big positive impact on (Joe Girardi‘s) lineup choices on a weekly basis, as he chooses when to rest (Brian McCann),” said Brian Cashman to reporters at the Winter Meetings earlier this month. “And we face so many left-handers that it’s nice to have that type of power bat. I’d like to unleash the Kraken — which is Gary Sanchez — on our roster in 2016 if I can, and see if he can do some real positive damage for us.”

Sanchez, who turned 23 earlier this month, had a big regular season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, putting up a 137 wRC+ with 18 homers. (He’s averaged 19 homers per 120 games in full season ball in his career.) He reportedly did some growing up and put himself in position to be a big league option. That definitely was not the case at this time last year. Sanchez’s maturation and development made Murphy expendable.

As with Murphy this past season, getting Sanchez playing time will be a bit of challenge because McCann is going to start. Eh, challenge probably isn’t the right word. I think a veteran like McCann can be very beneficial for a young catcher like Sanchez — “I’m extremely excited to work with him and see his tools on a daily basis and try to help him get better,” said McCann to Jack Curry recently (video link) — but going from playing everyday to playing once or twice a week can be a tough adjustment.

The Yankees do, however, need to start paying some more attention to McCann’s workload. That isn’t to say Girardi has been oblivious to it — Girardi’s an ex-catcher, after all, he know when McCann needs a rest — it’s just that McCann will be 32 in February and he’s been a starting catcher for eleven seasons now. He’s been behind the plate for nearly 11,000 regular season innings. That’s a lot of wear and tear.

McCann may have started to show some of that wear and tear this past season, when he hit .200/.306/.395 (91 wRC+) in the second half and .174/.301/.279 (64 wRC+) in September. He started 43 of 55 games in May and June — that’s a 127-start pace across a full 162-game season — before Girardi started to scale back and give Murphy a little more playing time in July and August. McCann was a workhorse early in the season.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

“You know, you try to keep it around somewhere between 100-120 games, 120 is pushing it a little bit,” said Girardi when asked about McCann’s 2016 workload at the Winter Meetings. “He wants to play every day, and sometimes I’ve got to tell him, ‘You’re going to take a day here.’ But I think you see how he’s doing … I know his bat is important to us and I have to keep him healthy.”

Sanchez is a natural platoon made for McCann just like Murphy was this past season. Starting Sanchez against southpaws next season — assuming he and not someone else is the backup catcher, of course — ensures McCann regular rest and puts Sanchez in position to do the most damage. It also gives him something of a set schedule, which all players appreciate. Sanchez can look at the upcoming pitchers and get an idea of exactly when he’ll play.

Girardi has also been known to use personal catchers at times — Jose Molina and A.J. Burnett is the most notable example, but he also used to pair Frankie Cervelli with CC Sabathia — and Sanchez could get playing time that way. Luis Severino‘s the obvious candidate here. Severino threw to Sanchez with Double-A Trenton the last two years and again with Triple-A Scranton this year. There’s familiarity there.

Either way, Sanchez now has an obvious long-term role with the organization, and his arrival coincides perfectly with what figures to be the back-end of McCann’s career. The Yankees can begin to scale back on McCann’s workload — an inevitability for all veteran catchers — and incorporate Sanchez into the lineup at a comfortable pace. In 2016, that could mean platoon work against lefties and perhaps a stint as Severino’s personal catcher.