The Pirates are among the teams showing interest in Gary Sánchez, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. The two-time All-Star is the best unsigned player in an otherwise weak free agent catching class.
Sánchez is no longer the franchise catcher he once seemed he’d be in the Bronx. He has been a solid regular for the majority of his career, though, and he’s coming off an effective season for the Padres. San Diego nabbed Sánchez off waivers from the Mets at the end of May. He emerged as their top option behind the plate with decent work on both sides of the ball.
His offensive profile is built around plus power. Sánchez popped 19 home runs in 260 plate appearances a year ago. Were it not for a season-ending wrist fracture sustained when he was hit by a pitch in early September, he’d have gotten to the 20-homer mark for the fifth time in his career. That compensates for low batting averages and middling on-base marks. Sánchez finished his time as a Padre with a .218/.292/.500 line.
Much maligned for his receiving skills with the Yankees, he has improved his defensive marks over the past two years. Statcast has rated him as a slightly above-average pitch framer in each of the last couple seasons. His blocking metrics are marginally below par but nowhere near as bad as they were during his first four campaigns. He still has a plus arm, ranking in the top 10 in average pop time last year.
The Padres remained in contact with Sánchez early in the offseason. It seems his asking price was beyond their comfort zone, though, and they pivoted to acquire Kyle Higashioka in the Juan Soto blockbuster. With Higashioka backing up Luis Campusano, it looks as if Sánchez will head elsewhere.
Pittsburgh wouldn’t have been a candidate to add a catcher a couple months ago. Second-year backstop Endy Rodríguez suffered a fluke elbow injury while hitting in winter ball and underwent UCL surgery that ends his 2024 campaign before it began. That leaves the Bucs to decide whether to count on former first overall pick Henry Davis as their #1 option behind the plate.
Davis hasn’t started an MLB game at catcher. He made 49 starts in right field and 11 as a designated hitter in deference to Rodríguez. Prospect evaluators have questioned his ability to stick as a catcher going back to his college days at Louisville. GM Ben Cherington and skipper Derek Shelton have both said this offseason they’re still optimistic about Davis’ future at the position, but there’d be risk in counting on him as the starter next season.
Their depth options don’t provide much offensive upside. Jason Delay remains on the 40-man roster, while the Bucs added Ali Sánchez on a big league free agent contract. Delay is a career .233/.293/.311 hitter in 127 MLB contests. Ali Sánchez is a 27-year-old with seven career big league appearances, none since 2021.