Just a couple of weeks ago, Gary Sanchez’s future in the Major Leagues seemed very much in doubt. The one-time All-Star had just been let go by the New York Mets, a team desperate for a backup catcher with any kind of pulse to supplement star rookie Francisco Alvarez — the second time he’d been dumped in as many months.
But it turned out that the San Diego Padres — mired near the cellar of the NL West, with an offense badly underachieving its star power and a gaping hole behind the plate — were just as desperate as Sanchez was. The team decided to take a shot on him, with GM A.J. Preller deeming the signing “a low-cost acquisition, to see if we can upgrade the catching spot and just change our mix for a little bit”. Flash forward a few days, and it’s safe to say “upgrade” was an understatement: Sanchez launched his fourth dinger in nine games with the team on Wednesday afternoon, this one a three-run bomb off of Seattle Mariners ace George Kirby.
It’s time to build the Gary Sanchez statue in San Diego pic.twitter.com/zWIOkKH96H— Borna Nazari (@thehogwatch) June 7, 2023
Since joining San Diego on May 30, here’s a complete list of players who’ve homered as often as Sanchez has: Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Shohei Ohtani. That’s it, that’s the list. The slugger came into Wednesday slashing a tidy .292/.370/.708 in that span, numbers that are sure to go up after another 2-for-4 effort. He’s reached base in all but one of the eight games he’s started, a godsend for a Padres team that was sitting dead last in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage before he showed up. And with Nelson Cruz on the IL the Padres have even begun slotting him in at DH just to keep his bat in the lineup.
It’s a shocking turnaround for a guy on this third team of 2023. After hitting .187 over his last two years with the New York Yankees, Sanchez got another shot at a starting gig when he was traded to the Minnesota Twins. But he didn’t fare much better, striking out 136 times in 128 games and again struggling to keep his average above the Mendoza Line. He entered this offseason with real questions about his future, just four years removed from his second All-Star campaign with New York.
All that was waiting for Sanchez this winter was a Minor League deal with the San Francisco Giants, and even that was an unmitigated disaster — the catcher hit just .164 over 16 games at Triple-A before being released. That was when the Mets game calling, and Sanchez did hit well enough over a week in New York’s system to get a call to the Majors. But after going 1-for-6 in three games in Queens — and with Tomas Nido set to return off the IL — he was put on waivers again. Nido, for the record, is hitting .125/.153/.125 for the Mets so far this year.