If we’re to take Gleyber Torres’ end of season “surge” seriously, New York Yankees fans can at least feel optimistic about the young slugger rebounding after his move back to second base, where he’s clearly more comfortable defensively.
Though we only received a small sample size, Torres hit .300 with an .815 OPS in 19 games (78 plate appearances) as a second baseman compared to his dreadful .251 average and .671 OPS in 107 games (434 plate appearances) as a shortstop.
He was very clearly out of place at shortstop in both 2020 and for most of 2021, which many have assumed drastically affected his offensive output to career-worsts after two All-Star seasons to begin his MLB career.
But how long is Torres’ leash when the 2022 season arrives? What if he gets off to another slow start in the batter’s box and isn’t as sharp on defense?
Last year, some wondered if Torres would be shipped out of town at the trade deadline. Others thought it could happen in the offseason. And nobody was wrong to think that. Months earlier, general manager Brian Cashman publicly criticized the 25-year-old in a multitude of ways.
Additionally, the Yankees had other roster holes that needed to be addressed. Moving Torres to improve the pitching staff or add to the top end of the farm system really didn’t sound outlandish.
What will the Yankees do with Gleyber Torres if he underperforms again?
Torres is under club control through 2024 but will have rising arbitration salaries. He’s set to earn $6 million in 2022, a figure that will take leaps in 2023 and 2024 assuming he doesn’t put forth a Cody Bellinger-esque MLB-worst showing (after Bellinger did that, his arb salary pretty much remained the same).
But will the Yankees be willing to pay escalating salaries for a depreciating asset if Torres doesn’t return to his 2018 or 2019 self (or at least something much closer to that)? We’ve seen no evidence of Torres rediscovering his power stroke in two years, and a 19-game stretch of productivity hopefully isn’t changing anyone’s mind just yet.
It’s not like the Yankees don’t have solutions, either. DJ LeMahieu is here for the next five years. He can slip right in at second base and feel right at home. Subtracting Torres from the equation changes nothing. This team still needs a shortstop (or a third baseman, if they move Gio Urshela to short).
It also doesn’t help that Torres’ failures over the last two years have been instrumental in the Yankees’ shortcomings. He’s such an important piece of the puzzle that if he’s unable to pull his own weight then the rest of the roster suffers greatly. How much longer can the front office tolerate that?
Additionally, New York has to learn from its mistakes at some point, right? Cashman has held onto depreciating asset after depreciating asset to the point where they were worth next to nothing. We’re still witnessing it with Miguel Andújar on the roster as well as Luke Voit not being taken seriously as a valuable trade chip.
Torres at least has three years of club control remaining at 25 years old and could benefit greatly from a change of scenery. The Yankees simply cannot be laughed off the phone if they’re dangling him in trade talks, and watching him lose value even further would be arguably the biggest failure on the long list of botched trade assets over the last few years.
If the Yankees are to take 2022 seriously as a World Series-or-bust campaign, they might need to act in haste and a bit out of character if things aren’t going as planned in the early going. Trading Torres, while unlikely, should be a consideration if his situation continues to go south.