Gary Sanchez becomes a Pirate
The Pirates have been connected to Gary Sanchez, and with the team needing another bat, I think they will get a deal done. The veteran slugger also brings solid defense behind the plate, a position the Pirates could definitely benefit from adding depth to.
Last season, Sanchez batted .217/.228/.496 with a .329 wOBA and 111 wRC+ through 267 plate appearances, mostly with the San Diego Padres. Sanchez hit for an immense amount of power. His .275 isolated slugging percentage not only led all catchers with as many plate appearances, but it was the best remark of his career since 2019. The downside is that he had an unimpressive 7.9% walk rate and 25.1% strikeout rate, although both are manageable.
Many fans are sleeping on Sanchez's defense. Although he was a bad defender at the start of his career, he's gotten increasingly better with the glove. Last year, he racked up a career-high +7 defensive runs saved. Depending on the metric you use, Sanchez either was league average or slightly better than league average at framing, as FanGraphs put him at -0.1 while Baseball Savant had him at +2. Either way, you look at it, Sanchez can frame a pitch. Blocking, however, is still a slight issue, but not nearly as bad as it was early in his career. Last season, he had just -1 blocking runs and five passed balls. In his rookie season, he allowed six passed balls in about 210 fewer innings caught.
There's also a decent amount of evidence that we could see Sanchez bounce back even further in 2024. Sanchez had a .342 xwOBA, 13 points higher than his wOBA. Despite having a 15.4% barrel rate, the 15th best in baseball and above the likes of Ronald Acuna Jr., Corey Seager, and Bryce Harper, Sanchez's batting average on balls in play was just .212, significantly lower than the .254 mark he had in 2016-2022. Sanchez may have become more flyball-happy, but his launch angle only went from 15.4 degrees to 16.5 degrees. He had an expected batting average of .230. An increase from .217 to .230 might not seem like much on paper, but that's the difference between 76 and 81 hits in 350 at-bats. Sanchez's xwOBACON was .419, 16 points better than his bottom line.
Sanchez has the potential to be a 25-home-run threat from the catching position, something that has only been done 18 times over the last decade by a primary catcher. On top of that, he's a solid defender behind the plate who has gotten better with age, which is something you typically don't see from the most physically demanding position on the diamond.