The Yankees have re-signed minor-league catcher Francisco Díaz and infielder Gio Urshela to another round of minor league deals. That information was compiled by Matt Eddy at Baseball America.
Díaz, 28, is a switch-hitter from Punta Cardon, Venezuela, who played in 74 games for the Yankees from High-A all the way to Triple-A. Across those levels, he hit .275/.381/.333 with one homer and 28 RBIs in 74 games. Díaz played at least 19 games at each of those levels, as he moved around the minor-league ranks as a depth player. He’s playing winter ball in Venezuela, batting .275/.367/.275 in 16 games for the Bravos de Margarita.
Urshela came to the Yankee organization August 4, 2018, in a cash trade from Toronto. He went straight to the RailRiders, and hit .307/.340/.475 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 27 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He played mostly shortstop and third base for the RailRiders, though he also made one start at second base. It seems the 27-year-old is also picking up a first baseman’s glove, having recorded five starts there for the Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League. He’s hitting .242/.242/.485 so far in nine Dominican Winter League games.
These two join catcher Ryan Lavarnway as the players who have already signed minor league deals with invites to Major League Spring Training.
Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez is set to undergo a left shoulder debridement operation, and will miss three months to recover. He is expected to be ready for Opening Day. The shoulder injury apparently has been bothering Sánchez since 2017.
Brian Cashman made the announcement to reporters from the GM Meetings taking place in Carlsbad, California. The surgery will take place sometime this week, and will consist of team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad removing damaged tissue from Sánchez’s left AC joint.
Cashman noted that he would be comfortable with Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka catching in case of a setback to Sánchez. The team also picked up veteran Ryan Lavarnway on a minor-league deal and will likely sign more catchers to similar deals.
“It may very well be something that affected him performance-wise,” Cashman said. “I can’t rule that out. Now is the time to take care of it.”
Sánchez had a terrible 2018, hitting just .186/.291/.406 (89 wRC+). He saw his infield fly ball rate and soft contact rate increase. This injury could explain the significant difference in his quality of contact. It’s admirable that he tried to play through the injury, but it’s better for the 2019 team that he shows up in the healthiest condition possible.
Aaron Judge had surgery on his left shoulder last offseason, and showed now ill effects during the 2018 season. Now, it’s Gary Sánchez‘s turn to power through a procedure like this and get back to his MVP candidate form from 2017.
The Yankees added veteran catching depth to their ranks Wednesday, reportedly inking 31-year-old Ryan Lavarnway to a minor league contract. That deal also carries an invite to MLB Spring Training, as well as a likely ticket to playing time with the Triple-A SWB RailRiders.
Lavarnway has always been a part-time big-leaguer, appearing in a career-high 46 games for the Boston Red Sox in 2012. He’s also played for the Baltimore Orioles (2015), Atlanta Braves (2015–2016), Oakland Athletics (2017) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2018). He is a career .208/.268/.326 (59 wRC+) hitter with seven home runs and 43 RBI.
In 2018, he hit .288/.375/.485 (145 wRC+) for Triple-A Indianapolis in the Pirates organization. He went 4-for-6 in a six-game cameo with Pittsburgh as a September call-up.
Just like the Erik Kratz trade and subsequent signing last year, Lavarnway is around to provide a veteran presence in Spring Training and help shoulder the workload in Triple-A. The Yankees upper-level catching depth is thin with Wilkin Castillo and Francisco Díaz both set to become minor-league free agents.