Yankees: Power ranking NYY’s most confusing current problems

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 04: Gleyber Torres #25 of the New York Yankees reacts after striking out during the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on April 04, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Blue Jays won 3-1. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 04: Gleyber Torres #25 of the New York Yankees reacts after striking out during the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on April 04, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Blue Jays won 3-1. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
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TAMPA, FLORIDA – MARCH 07: Gleyber Torres #25 of the New York Yankees interacts with fans taking photos during the spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

1. The Cloud Around Gleyber Torres

Both the most confusing problem the Yankees are currently battling, and most foundational issue they have to combat, is the ongoing regression of Gleyber Torres, in all facets of the game.

In other words, his standout performances against the 2019 Orioles pitching staff maybe aren’t quite so funny anymore.

2020 was tough on Torres, though much of his slow start was blamed on the shortstop reporting to camp out of shape, and by September he was certainly rounding into form. Torres at his peak arrived by the postseason, as he hit a remarkable .714 in the two-game set with the Indians before ripping up the Rays’ elite staff to the triple-slash tune of .313/.450/.500.

2021, though? What can we blame this start on, both offensively and defensively (but primarily offensively)? And can we justify the fact that he’s now in the midst of a string of 200+ regular-season plate appearances with only two home runs?

Are the Yankees mishandling Gleyber Torres?

If the pressure of shortstop is the problem, then the Yankees have to do some serious re-working of their infield picture. We’ve said it before, but DJ LeMahieu’s emergence in 2019 and 2020 as an MVP candidate rather than just a viable roving infielder changed Brian Cashman’s infield equation. He likely intended to keep Torres at second long-term, where he could both pick it and rip it. Instead, Didi Gregorius’ Tommy John surgery threw a wrench in the Yanks’ plans, as did LeMahieu’s emergence as a fairly essential extension candidate.

Now? The Yankees could pay Trevor Story in eight months…or Javier Baez, or Corey Seager or (shudders) Carlos Correa. Will they? Well…if Torres is bringing his fielding woes to the plate, he won’t be a long-term solution in the Bronx, no matter how electric he’s been at ages 21 and 22.

That’s why this is the most concerning issue by far. Accepting that Torres is broken doesn’t seem fair or valuable. But fixing him (or not) will change the long-term trajectory of this franchise.