At 24, Gleyber Torres is the second-youngest player to take an at-bat for the 2021 Yankees, older than only Estevan Florial. Only two younger players, the Blue Jays’ 23-year-old Bo Bichette (140) and the Padres’ 22-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr. (110) have logged more games at shortstop than his 108.
Young players need time to figure themselves out, even on the Yankees, who in turn need time to learn who can do what for them.
Torres, however, never figured out shortstop at the major-league level, and the Yankees pulled the plug on their commitment Monday when Aaron Boone rolled out a lineup featuring Torres at second base, DJ LeMahieu at third base and Tyler Wade at shortstop as the team tried to resuscitate its playoff hopes against the Twins. From the way the Yankees’ manager spoke about this shuffle before the game, it sounds highly unlikely that Torres — who had made four errors in nine games at short since returning from the injured list — will return to the prime position this season, which in turn means he’s probably done being an everyday player there altogether.
This therefore becomes a failed two-year venture. Over the next three weeks, we’ll see how costly a venture it was. If this wasn’t too late, will it prove too little?
“I feel like this is something that hopefully will take a little bit of weight off him as we move forward now,” Boone said of Torres.
LIke Gary Sanchez and (it might feel hard to remember now) Giancarlo Stanton, Torres’ low points — be they defensive, offensive or on the bases — seem to possess considerable legs in media/fan conversation circles. Boone noted that, too, saying on Monday, “One play becomes such a storyline that lasts a long time, which I think at times has been really unfair.”
Could be, yet any fair assessment of Torres’ defense showed him to be below average, or below even replacement level. This just didn’t work. Torres never compensated for his obvious lack of range (a liability that afflicted newly inducted Hall of Famer Derek Jeter for the majority of his career), with reliable hands. And when you have a shortstop who neither gets to many balls nor consistently handles the ones he does reach, well, that’s not much of a shortstop. Throw in Torres’ alarmingly declining offense — he showed up at the Stadium Monday with a .352 slugging percentage, whereas he slugged .535 in 2019 — and you don’t have much of anything.
And look, if Torres — who did hit well during this past weekend’s Subway Series — can’t pick it up offensively at second base, then he should just be sidelined altogether. Play LeMahieu at second, Gio Urshela at third base and Wade and Andrew Velazquez (once he can be recalled) at shortstop. The time for growing pains has ceased.
As for the Yankees’ future at shortstop, well, Joel Sherman tackled that pretty well for us the other day. We’ll have time to tackle it many more times before a resolution arrives. That the Yankees weren’t willing to wait until their offseason to do the same shows just how dire a situation this had become. And how badly this endeavor went.