After the Yankees’ season ended with their loss to the Rays in the ALDS, general manager Brian Cashman was blunt when asked if Gleyber Torres would remain at shortstop.
“We’re gonna evaluate all circumstances that best fit us,’’ Cashman said. “He’s currently our shortstop. We think he’s capable of better defense.”
Should the Yankees decide they are better served with Torres returning to second base, regardless of whether or not they re-sign DJ LeMahieu, they are going to need a shortstop.
The first name that surfaces is former Yankee Didi Gregorius. He had a bounce-back season in Philadelphia after the Yankees didn’t show much interest in retaining him following the 2019 season.
Should the Yankees be thinking about Gregorius 2.0, however, they already have competition.
The Angels have an interest in the left-handed hitting Gregorius, who will turn 31 in February. That is likely advance work because their shortstop, Andrelton Simmons, will become a free agent after the World Series.
Gregorius had a truncated 2019 season, in which he didn’t start playing until June 7 due to Tommy John surgery and ended up hitting .238 with 16 homers and 61 RBIs in 82 games. After that tepid interest from the Yankees, he signed a one-year deal for $14 million with the Phillies and responded by hitting .284 with 10 homers, 40 RBIs and posting a .827 OPS. That could put him on track for a two- or three-year deal this time.
As the Yankees hold virtual staff meetings this week, a decision on catcher Gary Sanchez, who lost the starting job to Kyle Higashioka in the postseason, tops their list of issues. But what to do with Torres, who will turn 24 in December, isn’t far behind.
Had Torres not hit .243 with three homers, 16 RBIs and a .724 OPS in 42 games this past season, perhaps the Yankees might overlook the shaky footwork that contributed to his nine errors in 40 games at short. In 138 big league games at that position, Torres has made 25 errors, and he lacks range.
“For Gleyber, it’s about becoming excellent at the routine,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said last week. “That’s what separates really good shortstops from average to below-average. For Gleyber, it’s about making the routine play, day in and day out. That’s what’s gonna allow him to become a really good shortstop.”
When Torres played 77 games at short in 2019 while Gregorius was working back from surgery, the Yankees rarely mentioned his defense (11 errors) as an issue because he finished the season hitting .278 with 38 homers and 90 RBIs.
“He brings a lot to the table. He catches the ball, has very good hands and a good arm,’’ said a NL talent evaluator. “And the power is there.’’
If the Yankees commit to moving Torres back to second and aren’t interested in reuniting with Gregorius, most of the other options are going to cost money or talent.
Joining Simmons, 31, and Gregorius atop the free-agent shortstop pool is 30-year-old Marcus Semien. The Athletics shortstop finished third in the 2019 AL MVP race, when he played in all 162 games, hit .285 with 33 homers, 92 RBIs and a posted an .892 OPS. In the recently completed 60-game season, Semien dropped to .223 with seven homers, 23 RBIs and a .679 OPS. Evaluators have warned, however, that judging talent based on this past season is very difficult due to the schedule, which was shortened by COVID-19.
In what has become a passage of winter, Francisco Lindor’s name will surface as a possible trade candidate. He will be a free agent after the 2021 season. Despite a subpar 2020 for the Indians, when he batted .258, Lindor, who will turn 27 next month, is expected to sign a monster contract following next season. That might not fit into the Yankees’ 2022 budget. Not to mention what they would have to give the Indians in a trade.