The Yankees are in an interesting spot with Gleyber Torres for 2023

gleyber torres, new york yankees
Sep 11, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) reacts to hitting his second home run of the game against the Tampa Bay Rays during the second inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Back in October, it would have been considered a no-brainer to trade Gleyber Torres and save some money to allocate to another position on the team. The Yankees have an abundance on infielders, and perhaps $9 million for Gleyber Torres just isn’t worth it. You could spend it other ways, and you can get good value in return. What reason would there possibly be to keep Torres?

This free agency has showed us is that not only is Gleyber Torres at $9 million not a bad thing, it’s arguably a bargain. While we’ve seen an exciting and explosive market, it begs the question of whether Torres should actually be dealt or not. The Yankees not only have questions to answer in LF, but they also have a potential issue at 2B since DJ LeMahieu’s toe still may need surgery. With his injury and the contracts players are getting right now, Gleyber Torres suddenly becomes more of a necessity than a form of shedding salary.

People Have Underrated Gleyber Torres

Last season Gleyber Torres posted a 115 wRC+ and 4.1 bWAR, making him one of the better 2B in baseball. 24 HRs and 9 DRS is plenty of value for a team that didn’t get a lot of consistent offense in the postseason due to injuries. While Oswaldo Cabrera was impressive, it seems far more likely that the Yankees use him in a utility role and don’t just stick him at one position for the entire season. Furthermore, Anthony Volpe might have to play 3B since the Yankees would like to move off of Josh Donaldson. They need a 2B, and Torres is that guy.

gleyber torres, new york yankees
Sep 13, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) celebrates after hitting a three run RBI during the tenth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Steamer projects a strong 2023 campaign for Torres as well, and that’s no surprise seeing that it’ll only be his age 26 season; Torres is still in his physical peak.

  • 2023 Steamer Projections
    • .262/.328/.444
    • 120 wRC+
    • 23 HRs
    • 3.5 fWAR
    • 13 SBs

With the current state of the Yankees’ lineup, can they really afford to trade a true-talent 120 wRC+ bat? Unless they’re getting the impact outfielder they’re looking for in return, it seems almost nonsensical to trade someone who’s probably a top 4-5 hitter on the team. Torres wasn’t a fluke in 2022, and that’s something a lot of Yankee fans tend to not really understand. He generates power to the opposite field well, and in Yankee Stadium that’s highly beneficial for a right-handed hitter.

  • MLB Opposite Field HR Leaders
    • Aaron Judge (16)
    • Giancarlo Stanton (15)
    • Gleyber Torres (10)

Gleyber Torres is one of just four players to have double-digit opposite field HR totals in 2022, and his .459 wOBA on opposite field batted balls is top 30 amongst all players with at least 50 Plate Appearances. His approach works for the ballpark he plays in, and his power works to all fields.

The defensive aspect of Torres’ game also got significantly better in 2022, a huge shock considering he had struggled at 2B mightily before. From 2018-2021 he had a -8 DRS and -14 OAA, and yet he was an above average defender in 2022. That’s a massive swing, and it also speaks to his work ethic. Plenty of people have created the narrative that Gleyber Torres is a “lazy player”, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Gleyber works hard, if he didn’t he wouldn’t have had such a strong 2022.

Sometimes a player doesn’t run a ball out; it doesn’t look great. That slip-up, mishap, or brainfart doesn’t define a player’s work ethic. To play 162 games of Major League Baseball and do so successfully for five years is not an easy task, and yet Gleyber Torres has done that. The verdict on Torres is simple and swift; he’s a good MLB 2B and is a massive reason the Yankees were a near-100 win team last season.

The Uncertainty of DJ LeMahieu

DJ LeMahieu’s status for Opening Day is still a massive question mark, and the Yankees cannot afford to trade their safest bet at 2B and depend on LeMahieu. He’s still hurt; the Yankees have no idea if he’s going to need a surgery that could sideline him for months. It’s hard to place expectations for LeMahieu and your alternative option could end up being IKF at 2B if the Yankees are to deal Torres. This would be an unmitigated disaster, and while there are some 2B options out there, they all cost more than Gleyber does. The Yankees need to save money if they move Gleyber; not lose it.

yankees, dj lemahieu
Jul 16, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Gleyber Torres currently slots in somewhere in the top 4 of the Yankee lineup and is their starting 2B as of December 9th; are we really that desperate to trade him? This isn’t a player on an expiring deal either, so if the Yankees feel inclined to move him later they can. The Yankees aren’t rebuilding, their goal isn’t to trade MLB talent for prospects, and if the opportunity cost is losing the opportunity to get an extra top 30 prospect in a team’s organization you take that. The opportunity cost of losing games is far more detrimental to the team as of right now, and they can shed salary in other places.

Where Can the Yankees Save Money?

Spotrac currently projects that after arbitration the Yankees will have allocated a little over $261 million towards the Luxury Tax. Right off the bat, there’s $6 million that can easily be saved by trading Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who should have a more robust market now. Remember how everyone’s getting paid like crazy? Well now paying IKF $6 million is pretty good value, and a team in need of a shortstop is probably going to come calling to the Yankees when Correa and Swanson inevitably sign.

Getting their payroll down to roughly $255 million is a good first step to take, but another player who could benefit from this type of market is Aaron Hicks.

aaron hicks, yankees
Apr 19, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks (31) celebrates after scoring in the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

At $30 million over the next 3 years, $10 million a year for a player who posted a 1.5 WAR last season isn’t ideal, but it also isn’t horrific. For those who truly despite Aaron Hicks, put down the hatred and let’s analyze this from an objective point of view. If a team is asked if they’d pay $8 million a year for 3 years to get a 1.5-2 WAR outfielder, the answer is most likely yes. Hicks is a strong defensive LF with speed who’s also a switch-hitter, and at an wRC+ of 90, he’s not the worst offensive player in the world.

If they open up $14 million through IKF and Hicks, they lower the payroll to $247 million, giving them the financial flexibility to get a star like Carlos Rodon, get another outfielder, and also keep Gleyber Torres.

Looking at a Yankees Lineup With Gleyber Torres

If the Yankees add a LF like Michael Brantley, suddenly this lineup looks extremely balanced and well-rounded for Opening Day with Peraza and Volpe in the infield as well. They have plenty of strong talent around the lineup, and Torres helps bridge the gaps between the middle and bottom of the lineup. When evaluating what the lineup could look at to open the season with their projections, this is pretty strong:

  1. Michael Brantley LF (117 wRC+)
  2. Aaron Judge RF (163 wRC+)
  3. Anthony Rizzo 1B (126 wRC+)
  4. Giancarlo Stanton DH (132 wRC+)
  5. Gleyber Torres 2B (120 wRC+)
  6. Anthony Volpe 3B (111 wRC+)
  7. Harrison Bader CF (105 wRC+)
  8. Oswald Peraza SS (105 wRC+)
  9. Jose Trevino C (90 wRC+)

This offense is one of the best in the entire sport, and Oswaldo Cabrera off the bench gives the Yankees great insurance for rookies like Volpe or Peraza, something they wouldn’t have if they dealt Torres. He also serves as the best realistic option for the team to hit in the 5-hole, which is an important part of the lineup since if Gleyber hits to his projections, it puts added pressure on the opposing pitcher who now has to deal with a good bat after getting through some of the best HR hitters in the American League.

Gleyber Torres is playing a position of need for this Yankee ballclub, he’s not someone that they can just trade without replacing externally. You don’t want Josh Donaldson starting on Opening Day or at any point during the season, and you don’t want to be so reliant on your youth when you already have an established veteran. The Yankees are better with Torres on the team versus without it, and that’s what truly matters for a World Series contender.