Before the 2020 season, the New York Yankees didn’t want to pay Didi Gregorius for his services as a shortstop and let him go to Joe Girardi’s Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, they chose to move the second baseman Gleyber Torres to be the team’s new shortstop. Ever since then, the bright young star once heralded as the Yankee’s new superstar has struggled both in his offense and defense. It should have lit up caution signs in the front office, but they didn’t see them or failed to act on them.
This has caused immense pressure on the young man. The question that should be asked is how much blame for his poor play should fall at his feet, and how responsible the New York Yankees have been for his poor play. When he was moved back to second base, his natural position, the Yankees have in their own way admitted that the entire experiment had been a failure. Has that failure ruined him, or will a full season at second bring him back to the player he was in 2018 and 2019 when he had 62 home runs?
Unfortunately, the problem for the Yankees has become much more complicated with the long-term contract they offered Gold Glover DJ LeMahieu. With moving Torres back to second, the Yankees are experimenting with LeMahieu at third and taking excellent third baseman Gio Urshela to fill the shortstop position. Unfortunately, neither LeMahieu nor Urshela is tearing up in the hitting department. So are they repeating the mistake they made with Torres?
To fully understand the Torres problem, you must know what has got him to where he is now. Gleyber Torres was born amongst the political strife, unrest, and violence of Caracas, Venezuela, in a middle-class family headed by Eusebio Torres and his mother, Ibelise. He is 24 years old. Gleyber started playing baseball at the age of four. He started in his early years as an outfielder, but shortstop was more suited to his game. His love of the game was propelled by watching games on TV.
He played both basketball and baseball in high school, but his father got him to concentrate on just baseball. Many thought he had the capabilities of becoming a professional. At age 14, he enrolled in an academy with strong connections to baseball scouts. Shortly after that, he was sought out by the Chicago Cubs, and he signed a contract with them.
In 2013 at the age of just sixteen, he signed a $1.7 million contract with the Cubs as an international free agent. He played in the minors for the Cubs organization; He made his pro debut in 2014 with the Arizona Cubs. In fifty games, he hit an average of .297. In 2015 he played for two minor league teams. In 126 games between the two clubs, he hit .287 with three home runs. In 2016 the Cubs traded Torres with Adam Warren and two other players to the Yankees for a desperately needed Aroldis Chapman. Torres played in the minors but missed most of the 2017 season for an injury that required Tommy John surgery, but still recorded a .287 season with seven home runs.
Torres made his major league debut on April 22, 2018, against the Blue Jays but went hitless. The next day he got his first hit off the Twins. Then, on May 4th, he recorded his first home run. The youngest Yankee to do so since 1969. In 2018 after batting .297 with fifteen home runs, he was selected to the All-Star team. He was named AL player of the week twice. For his sophomore season, on April 4, 2019, Gleyber Torres became the fourth-youngest Yankee with four hits and three extra-base hits in a game since Joe DiMaggio did it in 1936.
On June 29, 2019, he hit the 39th home run of his short career. Then, on August 2nd, he hit his second Grand Slam. To end his 2019 campaign, he batted .278 and led the New York Yankees with 38 home runs with 90 runs batted in. In his three years in the majors, he has been a New York Yankees All-Star twice and has received an MVP nomination. He finished the 2018-19 campaign with 62 home runs for his three-year career and 167 RBIs.
Torres played well in the 2020 spring training and the later summer camp. The New York Yankees had great hope for their young, new shortstop would repeat his excellent performance. The Yankees hoped for the best as he tried to follow in Yankee all-time star Derek Jeter’s footsteps and Didi Gregorius, who is now a Philadelphia Philly.
Fast forward to the coronavirus shortened baseball season. All the 2019 magic disappeared from that new guy at short? Well, it appears there certainly have been some struggles that he has suffered, from both behind the plate and at his new position. Before Torres went on the IL with both calf and hamstring strains, he led the league in errors at short and was hitting just .231 with only one home run and a measly six RBIs.
On August 21, 2020, Torres went on the 10 day IL. Upon his return, he had three at-bats and managed a double in a game. At the time, they hoped that was a good sign for the remaining weeks of the season, but it was not to be. Torres ended the 2020 season hitting just 3 home runs with an average batting average of .243.
2021 has not been better for the young man constantly under the pressure of not holding down his position as he should. You can only imagine the damage to the psyche when one is constantly being criticized for his play. It makes you work too hard to be good, and the result has not improved under pressure. The Yankees finally decided to move him back to second base. He immediately made two bad errors and a couple of bonehead plays. Now in his old position for a time, he seems to be settling in; he has even shown some power at the plate.
One must keep in mind that the 24-year-old is still very young and has plenty of time to improve. One or two seasons does not make a career. This season has given his detractors even more ammunition that he will never make stardom. The question now is can he return to the player he was? Whether winning in the postseason or not, the New York Yankees will have many questions to answer in the offseason.
This offseason, there will be a slew of shortstops on the market. Some of those include the expensive Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, and Carlos Correa to a cheapy Jose Iglesias. When considering these names, don’t forget the Yankees farm system and Andrew Velazquez and Anthony Volpe. Should the Yankees decide not to bring Anthony Rizzo back, that could put DJ back at first and Gio back at third while keeping Torres at second and looking for a new shortstop. Questions abound.