Yankees sign former catching prospect to Minor League free agent deal

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Oakland Athletics
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

With the Yankees still looking for upper-level Minor League depth, they add Luis Torrens, a catcher who spent a few years with the organization and was dealt to the San Diego Padres. The right-handed hitting catcher has struggled to hold his own behind the plate, but his ability to generate damage contact has kept him in the league for quite some time. His best season came in 2021 when the 27-year-old smashed 15 home runs in just 108 games, posting a 101 wRC+ with the Seattle Mariners that season.

Torrens is on a Minor League contract, therefore he does not occupy a spot on the team’s 40-mam roster and he’ll likely be relegated to Triple-A, where he spent the majority of his 2023 season.

Yankees Continue Adding MiLB Depth

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners
Sep 12, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher Luis Torrens (22) hits blows a bubble while running the bases after hitting a doubler against the Los Angeles Angels during the eighth inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Since his solid year at the plate in 2021, Luis Torrens has struggled to hold an MLB roster spot despite the power he displayed behind the dish. Teams have gotten him to strike out a ton, as the right-handed hitting catcher has a career 25.9% strikeout rate in his career at the Major League level. Furthermore, his inability to life the ball and generate ideal batted ball sprays has resulted in a low average (.227), also limiting his OBP (.289) and rendering him ineffective at the plate.

Perhaps the Yankees believe they can get Torrens to hit the ball in the air more, as in his career he has a 49.9% groundball rate, and could benefit from generating more contact in the air. Another issue for him is the lack of defensive value, as while teams have tried him at first base or corner outfield spots, the bat hasn’t been good enough to justify the lackluster defense they’re getting out there, and he’s also been brutal behind the dish.

Across 1,122.2 innings at catcher, Luis Torrens has -22 DRS and -17.6 Framing Runs, and the Yankees value defense behind the plate a lot. It’s unclear whether the Yankees will look to keep him at catcher or potentially see if they want to try him at other positions. This could however indicate a potential trade on the horizon with their logjam at the catching position.

mlb: new york yankees at cincinnati reds, ben rortvedt
May 20, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; New York Yankees catcher Ben Rortvedt (38) reacts in the dugout after scoring against the Cincinnati Reds during the third inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The preferred choice at catcher for Gerrit Cole down the stretch, Ben Rortvedt impressed behind the dish with his ability to call a game and play excellent defense, but the bat never came around. The 26-year-old catcher posted just a 35 wRC+ across 32 games with the Yankees, and while he was able to still post a positive WAR (0.1) due to his great glove, the bat is simply unplayable. He could be a third catcher in Triple-A for a team, but the lack of MiLB options makes it hard to find space for him on the team.

Barring the unthinkable, Austin Wells will open the season on the Major League roster and Rortvedt will find himself on waivers. Instead of losing him for nothing, the Yankees are hoping that they can get something resembling a return, even if it’s minimal. Some teams could use catching depth, but the lack of MLB success offensively makes it hard to justify rostering him when Jose Trevino is already the team’s defensive specialist behind the plate.

It’s possible that the signing of Luis Torrens is a way for the Yankees to prepare for a potential trade of Ben Rortvedt, especially after losing long-time back up Kyle Higashioka in the trade for Juan Soto.