Padres lose catcher after perfect opportunity to reunite him with former teammate

A pair of former Yankees backstops almost enjoyed a reunion in San Diego.
San Diego Padres catcher Gary Sanchez
San Diego Padres catcher Gary Sanchez / John Fisher/GettyImages

Rumors suggested that a reunion between the San Diego Padres and catcher Gary Sánchez was possible, perhaps even before the team jetted off to Peoria early next week to begin spring training. Unfortunately for the Friar faithful, the Milwaukee Brewers got in the way.

Sánchez agreed to a one-year deal to join the Brew Crew in the bitter cold of southeastern Wisconsin rather than return to the sunny southern California coastline. Reports are saying the deal is worth $7 million and includes an option.

The Padres missed a golden opportunity to reunite a pair of old teammates in San Diego. Sánchez played in New York with former Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka. The newly-minted Friars backstop was part of the Juan Soto deal earlier this offseason.

Padres lose Gary Sanchez after perfect opportunity to reunite him with Kyle Higashioka

Sanchez made the most of his opportunity last season. The former Yankees catcher struggled to find work last winter and eventually settled in San Francisco after agreeing to a minor-league deal with the Giants. Sanchez opted out of that deal and then latched on with the other New York team after agreeing to another minor-league contract; this time it was with the Mets.

But that didn't work out either, and eventually Sanchez was set free and then nabbed by the Padres. Once he arrived in America's Finest City, Sanchez got to prove why 29 other teams made a mistake. In 2023, Sanchez posted a .780 OPS and 113 OPS+. While his batting average and on-base percentage were rather woeful last season, Sanchez produced plenty of power with 19 homers in 240 at-bats.

Sanchez now joins a crowded catcher's room at American Family Field. William Contreras, an All-Star in 2022, is the likely starting backstop for the Brewers in 2024. The team also has Eric Hasse and Jeferson Quero on the 40-man roster.

As far as the Padres are concerned, without Sanchez in the mix, San Diego still has six catchers who'll be arriving in Arizona on Sunday. Higashioka, Brett Sullivan, and Luis Campusano are all on the Friars 40-man roster. Chandler Seagle, Kevin Plawecki, and top prospect Ethan Salas all received an invite to spring training as well.

Sanchez began to heat up over the final month of the 2023 season with a slash line of .240/.305/.560 and added seven home runs over his final 23 games. But a reunion with Higashioka was not in the cards for the two former Yankees teammates. Look for Higashioka to split time with Campusano hanging signs behind home plate for the Padres in 2024.