This is how Gary Sánchez could potentially fit on the Pittsburgh Pirates roster if the team ends up signing him
The Pittsburgh Pirates have recently been connected to veteran backstop Gary Sánchez. The slugger is the best catcher left on the free-agent market. But if the Pirates were to sign Sanchez, how would he fit on the team's current roster? How would the Pirates utilize him?
Sánchez had a solid rebound season after a rough 2022 in Minnesota. The former New York Yankees All-Star batted .217/.288/.492 with a .329 wOBA and 111 wRC through 267 plate appearances. Sánchez was one of the best-hitting catchers in the league, as his .275 isolated slugging was the best among any primary backstop with at least 250 plate appearances last season. The major downside, however, is that he had a mediocre 7.9% walk rate and 25.1% strikeout rate. Sánchez demolished left-handed pitching, owning an astounding 162 wRC+ and .413 ISO.
Sánchez could get even better next year. Despite his low BA, his xBA was .230, while his xwOBA was .340. His 14.9% barrel rate would have been tied with Ronald Acuña Jr. for the 13th-best in baseball last year had Sánchez had enough playing time. The raw power Gary has been known for his entire career is still there as he posted a well above average 90 MPH exit velo and 44.1% hard-hit rate.
If the Pirates were to sign Sánchez, he would probably take over as the regular backstop. Sánchez's defense gets a much worse rap than what he has done. Sánchez had one of the best seasons of his career behind the plate with +7 defensive runs saved and -0.1 framing runs. Blocking pitches has always been an issue for him, but he's been much better in the last two seasons.
In 2023, he had just -1 blocking runs. He's also still great at catching runners trying to steal, and he's averaged about five passed balls per 800 innings caught. The league average rate per 800 innings in 2022-2023 sits at 4. Sánchez had just a 1.90-second pop time (9th best in baseball), and the 13th best arm strength for a catcher as his throws averaged 85.5 MPH. Sanchez may not win a Gold Glove, but he doesn't cost a team runs with his defense, either.
So where would this push Henry Davis? Davis would probably share designated hitter and right field with Andrew McCutchen and Edward Oliveras, as well as take over as the team's third-string catcher. Jason Delay has minor league options remaining, and he is already a long shot to make the Opening Day roster, with or without the addition of Sánchez.
Ali Sanchez was signed to a Major League deal and has no options remaining, leaving him as the second-string backstop. Davis may still get occasional reps behind the plate so he can stay familiar with the position.
Alternatively, the Pirates could DFA Ali Sanchez. Ali Sanchez isn't any sort of upgrade over Delay. This would push Henry into more of a DH/RF/backup catcher role. Oliveras and Cutch would also share duties with Davis at DH and right field. In this alignment, Davis would probably catch two, maybe even three games a week to keep Gary fresh, and so Pirates pitchers are familiar with both backstops.
The last potential option would be the boldest. That would be to keep both Gary and Ali on the roster but send Henry back to Triple-A to get re-familiar with catching more frequently and on a more regular basis. This would let Cutch and Oliveras share duties between corner outfield and DH, with Ali getting a once/twice a-week start behind the plate.
Between the three options, I think the Pirates would go with door number one, keeping Ali on the roster and letting Davis, Cutch, and Oliveras share right field and DH. But I think the second option would give the Pirates the best roster. Either way, the Pirates should consider Gary, given he would bring a potential 20+ homer bat to the team with average defense behind the plate. That would add another power bat to this line-up. Gary, along with Bryan Reynolds, Oneil Cruz, Jack Suwinski, and Rowdy Tellez could conceivably hit 20+ home runs, which would be massive.