Gary Sanchez displayed as much enthusiasm about talking to The Post on Saturday that he did going after the passed ball that allowed Tampa Bay baserunner Jake Bauers to score from second base in late July.
Sitting at a table and finishing an autograph session at Steiner Sports Store early in the afternoon inside the Roosevelt Field Mall, Sanchez sent word he didn’t want to talk to the lone news-gathering outlet on hand that was standing 10 feet away.
That left Aaron Boone, sitting two seats to Sanchez’s left, to chat about the debridement procedure the Yankees catcher had on the left (non-throwing) shoulder Thursday — even though the manager’s left arm wasn’t in a sling and the body part that was operated on wasn’t his.
While Sanchez’s defensive problems were highlighted through a season in which he led the majors in passed balls (18) and had trouble blocking wild pitches (he was behind the plate for 45 — fifth most in the majors — of the 73 wild pitches uncorked by Yankee hurlers), the 25-year-old’s miserable year at the plate was underplayed.
When the season opened there was little doubt that Sanchez was the Yankees’ best all-around hitter, ahead of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. By June 24, before he went on the disabled list for the first of two stints because of right groin problems, Sanchez was the chairman of the Dead Bat Society with a .190 average, 14 homers, 41 RBIs and a .723 OPS in 63 games.
So, did the left shoulder problem cause the dramatic drop off?
“Honestly, I don’t think it had a big effect performance wise, I think he was OK,’’ Boone said of Sanchez, who Brian Cashman said this past week at the GM Meetings should be ready for Opening Day on March 28 against the Orioles.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean Boone believed Sanchez’s left shoulder was without discomfort.
“I always make the analogy, especially players in the prime of their career, what separates a guy in the prime of his career to when he is not the same later in his career. They are like race cars and a little bit off here and there takes it away,’’ Boone said of Sanchez, who finished with a .186 batting average, 18 homers, 53 RBIs and a .698 OPS in 89 games. He hit .167 (3-for-18) in five postseason games with two homers and five RBIs. “Maybe to some degree there was some [hindrance] even when you don’t know it is affecting you.’’
As for other developments, Boone was pleased Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia were brought back via one year contracts and reiterated the Yankees are shaking every tree to upgrade the roster.
“They are still really good players and obviously are important people within our team and our culture,’’ Boone said of Gardner and Sabathia, the two longest-tenured Yankees. “I think it’s a great kickoff to the offseason to get them back.’’
What will the remainder of the offseason bring? The Yankees’ main priority is securing at least one starter and hopefully two. They are engaged with free agent lefties Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ, have talked to the Mariners about left-hander James Paxton and are monitoring what the Indians do with right-handers Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. They might need to replace free agent reliever David Robertson.
“I think we are kicking the tires on every free agent out there,’’ Boone said. “Exploring trade options, looking at every option and Cash and Hal [Steinbrenner] will make the calls on which way we want to go.’’