On the list of disappointing members of the 2021 New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres has to rank near the top. Torres looked to be on his way to becoming a perennial All-Star and key member of the future of the franchise. Now, that couldn’t be less true.
Easily the most glaring issue with Torres’ game currently is his deficiencies on defense at an incredibly important position. After playing mostly second base in his first two MLB seasons to make room for former Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius, Torres was finally handed the starting shortstop role in 2020. Many didn’t think it’d be an issue because that’s the position he spent a majority of his time at in the minor leagues.
Since then, his performance in the field has been nothing short of a disaster.
As a shortstop at the big league level, Torres has now committed 43 errors in his career with 18 of them coming in 2021 alone. It’s never a good sign when the fan base holds their breath every time the opposing team hits a ground ball to the shortstop.
The question now becomes, what do the Yankees do with Torres? The only other infield position Torres has real experience at is second base, which where he will now play for the foreseeable future following manager Aaron Boone’s announcement on Monday.
Of course this now forces DJ LeMahieu off of his primary position as he shifts toward third base. Shortstop now has to be played by Gio Urshela (who is having his own struggles both at the plate and in the field) or Tyler Wade.
Trading Torres would be a massive disappointment for the front office since they are likely to get only pennies on the dollar for a player that was ranked as high as No. 8 in Fangraphs’ trade value series in 2020. Even if the Yankees trade Torres, they still need someone to fill the void at shortstop for the 2022 season.
Looking in the farm system, Anthony Volpe is the obvious heir-apparent after his prospect pedigree has skyrocketed since being selected in the first round back in 2019. But, despite his future promise, there’s no guarantee will be ready to step in at the big league level before 2023.
With Volpe likely requiring another season in the minors, the Yankees may look to the free agent market where multiple big names are available.
Most notably, Corey Seager, Trevor Story, and Yankee villain Carlos Correa. With the current payroll situation the Yankees are in, however, they would need to fly past the luxury tax threshold to sign one of those players, all of whom will no doubt command $20-$30 million per year on the open market. Not to mention, if the Yankees believe in Volpe, they’re not going to entertain bringing in a top long-term option in free agency.
This leaves one-year stopgap options as a real possibility. The only real option is defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons. The problem with Simmons is his performance at the plate this season has been so horrendous it’s hard to view him as an upgrade over Wade or even Andrew Velazquez.
With this said, the Yankees’ best move is to stick with what they have internally. Give Wade and Velazquez a chance to win the job in the spring and pray like hell that Volpe is ready sooner rather than later. Unless the Yankees are interested in blockbuster trades involving either Torres or Volpe and signing a star, this seems the best course of action.
This also gives the Yankees another year to possibly try and fix Torres at the plate. This would, at the very least, salvage some of his trade value going forward … or help him remain one of the premier figures of the team’s future foundation.
But how do they do that?
In 2019, Torres hit 38 home runs as a 22-year-old. To have hit only 10 total home runs in 110 games since that season is incredibly alarming.
There are a few key factors that have led to a complete power outage from Torres. Most notably, his average launch angle has fallen significantly. Torres simply is not hitting the ball in the air as much as he did a couple of seasons ago.
More specifically, Torres is not pulling the ball in the air with authority. His weak contact rate has gone up and his percentage of barreled balls has also fallen. This is the perfect storm for players watching their home run total plummet.
Torres is still only 24 years of age and just a season and a half removed from being a young star. If he’s to turn around any aspect of his game, it would most likely be at the plate, where he has a track record of success. It would not take major changes for Torres to go back to a plus hitter.
Despite how the remaining days of the 2021 season transpire, one of the biggest decisions the Yankees front office will have to make this offseason is what they want to do with the shortstop position. Torres’ career as a Yankee is now hanging in the balance, which is a shocking turn of events for a player who was an All-Star in his first two MLB seasons in 2018 and 2019.