Yankees give starting infielder a near $5 million salary increase

mlb: new york yankees at houston astros, gleyber torres
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees settled most of their cases to avoid arbitration on Thursday, handing out the biggest salary to a pre-free agent in Juan Soto at $31 million.

However, the Yankees also handed out a nice pay increase to former All-Star infielder Gleyber Torres, who came in just under $10 million last year but will now earn $14.2 million for the two 2024 season.

Torres earned close to a $5 million pay increase for his contributions in 2023, which saw him take a significant step forward as an offensive threat.

After a few middling seasons, Torres reduced his strikeout rate by 8%, hitting 25 homers, including a .273 batting average, .347 on-base percentage, and .453 slugging rate. His 123 wRC+ indicates he was 23% better than the average MLB hitter, collecting 3.2 WAR, his highest since 2019.

Despite Torres carrying the Yankees’ offense at times, notably when Aaron Judge missed time due to a right toe injury, the Yankees have still considered the idea of trading him this off-season for pitching support.

There is concern that the Yankees won’t offer him an extension after the 2024 season, even though Torres has taken plenty of punches to the chin with rumors suggesting he could be moved. The Yankees have included him in trade talks in the past, and Torres has had to fight those mental demons knowing that the team doesn’t plan to be loyal.

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The Yankees Will Most Certainly Let Torres Hit Free agency

It is in his best interest to test the open market and look for the highest bidder, which, it’s safe to say, most likely won’t be the Yankees. Torres is a solid all-around player but does have some defensive issues.

This past season, he allowed 15 errors with a .975 fielding percentage, following a season in 2022 where he only posted seven errors with a .985 fielding percentage. After collecting nine defensive runs saved, he gave up -4 defensive runs across 1,255.2 innings last year, not to mention -3 outs above average.

Fortunately, his offensive contributions carried the weight but he was a liability defensively at times and the Yankees may want to look for a more prominent glove to feature second base long-term. There is a narrative that Oswald Peraza could develop into that player, but the Yankees need to give him substantial at-bats in the MLB to determine if he’s capable of hitting consistently. We know he is a Gold Glove-level infielder at multiple spots, but allowing him to develop his offensive identity is paramount for growth.

At the moment, Peraza in as the team’s primary infield utility option with DJ LeMahieu expected to start at third base. In the meantime, Torres be fighting for his future and building a strong sample size to get a lucrative contract in free agency next off-season.