Was The Demotion Of Ronald Torreyes The Right Move For The 2018 New York Yankees?

Greetings, AlleyCats! (getting annoyed with that greeting yet?)

When the Yankees activated Greg Bird, everyone knew there was a tough decision looming, as MLB teams can only carry 25 players on the active roster, and Bird would have made 26, meaning, yes, you guessed it, someone was going to get knocked off the active 25-man roster. With how well the Yankees have played so far this young season, it was going to be tough to knock any one player off the roster. Let’s look at the choices the Yankees had, given the current roster, and how realistic each option is. An important thing to note is, we are discussing the very last player on the active roster, and the fact that this is a really hard decision is a "high-class problem", as Robert Kraft would say.

Let’s get to the options, shall we?

Option #1 – The 13th pitcher: The Yanks have been carrying 13 pitchers all season (save for the week Red Thunder was up, but got rained out/trapped in D.C.), because of the inconsistency of their starting pitching, and the need for relievers to take care of a significant chunk of innings. This continues to ring true, and so the Yankees, realistically, were not going to demote a pitcher. For completeness’ sake, it would have been either German (entirely unlikely, with a scheduled start coming up), A.J. Cole (pretty unlikely because he’s out of Minor League options and has been a pleasant surprise in his young and already storied Yankee career, but not out of the question), or Jonathan Holder (most likely of the 3, as he’s got Minor League options, and has already moved between Scranton and The Bronx this season). But, alas, the Yankees’ need for as many capable arms as possible reigned supreme, and none of these players were moved. Demoting Holder for the time being would have been my preferred response, if the Yankees weren’t just beginning a stretch of 15 games in 14 days. But they are, so keep reading for my actual preferred response.

Option #2 – Tyler Austin: Tyler Austin has been better this season than in any of his previous sips of coffee with the Big Club. That said, he still has not been great offensively (OBP .289 is not getting it done, even though his SLG is a strong .519), and is very clearly a negative on the defensive side. I think Tyler Austin has value for the Yankees as Bird’s backup, since Bird has proven nothing more than a porcelain doll up to this point in his career. It is important for the Yankees to have a capable backup at the ready, in the likely event that Mr. Bird falls off the top shelf of the "good china" cabinet and shatters to the floor. For the time being, however, Tyler Austin is purely a backup, with the ability to step in as a pinch hitter, given the right matchup.

Option #3 – Neil Walker: Everyone knows the Neil Walker story. He signed late, and got off to a BRUTAL start, but is coming on strong in May. He’s obviously very versatile, with the ability to play competent defense at 3 infield positions. This option is not really an option, no matter how much you hate how he played in April, since he doesn’t have Minor League options, so DFAing him would certainly result in losing the player entirely, which is not a desirable outcome. Not a realistic option.

Option #4 – Miguel Andujar: This option is more realistic than people realize, I think, and here’s why. The plan to start the season was for Drury to start the season at 3rd base, and for Andujar to start in AAA. When Drury couldn’t see straight, and Neil Walker was unable to provide any sort of production, the Yankees had to turn to Andujar sooner than they would have liked. It’s no secret that MLB clubs manipulate service time to gain an extra year of control over a player (see: Torres, Gleyber). The Yankees would have been able to hold onto that extra year of control of Andujar if they had kept him off the 25-man roster for (something like) 30 days this season. Out of necessity, they called him up early, and he has provided good offense and (barely) capable defense. Since he is still playing well and hasn’t fallen into any major slumps yet, it does make sense to keep him on the 25-man roster for now, since the Yankees are winning. My point, though, is that I fully expect Andujar to spend some time in AAA this season, for the purpose of manipulating service time. It will take some sort of triggering event, like a slump, or a stretch of really bad defense, or any injury, no matter how minor, so that Cashman can spin it in a way that makes it look like he’s not strictly manipulating service time, but it makes too much sense as a ballclub to ignore the value of an extra year of team control, at the cost of sending the player to AAA for a couple of weeks. Not very likely YET, but keep an eye out later this season.

Option #5 – Gleyber Torres: Moving on….

Option #6 – Big Toe, Ronald Torreyes: We know how this all shook out. This is the guy they ultimately picked to hop on the bus to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and play some AAA baseball. Clearly Torreyes has a role on this team. He has shown the ability to sit on the bench for long stretches, and still be able to provide strong defense and a surprising amount of offense (114 wRC+ and 111 OPS+. Don’t like the fancy new stats? First of all, wake up old-timer. Second of all, his "Batting Average" is .339. the point remains). Given the limited opportunities, this is hard to do, and is a rare and valuable skill. In addition to the fact that he is actually good at baseball (prior to this season, I did not believe this to be true), he is also a valuable member of the clubhouse in more ways than one. First off, he is Gleyber Torres’ mentor. Big Toe has been working closely with Gleyber ever since the Yankees acquired Torres from the Cubs in 2016. Gleyber has shown great maturity, and I would have to credit some of that to his mentor, Big Toe. Obviously they will still be in touch, but they will not be in the same dugout on a nightly basis (for now), which is not insignificant. I am confident that Gleyber will still be awesome, and conduct himself professionally, but there is a level of comfort that comes with seeing your mentor every day, and being comfortable during the grind of an MLB season is not a luxury that (m)any players have. Secondly, as Aaron Boone put it, the whole clubhouse felt it when the decision came down. He is obviously a key cog in the clubhouse chemistry, which should not be overlooked. An MLB season is a long grind, and having someone there to bring that positive attitude, strong work ethic, and other behind-the-scenes stuff that we as the general public obviously never see, day-in and day-out has real-life value. With all this being said, I understand the reasoning as to why Torreyes got the short end of the stick in the particular roster decision. The nature of Torreyes’ role is a fill-in player who starts games once a week at most. He hardly ever comes off the bench during a game. It is my belief that because of this, the Yankees will still be moving him back and forth between AAA and MLB as needed, and this move is FAR from permanent. Combine this with the fact that Torreyes has been the luckiest player on the Yankees in terms of statistics, as noted by my colleague Erik Carlson in his article written on this crazy site last week! The Yankees are obviously on the forefront of using advanced metrics as a way of predicting future results, and so this expected downturn in production likely played a part in this decision. With all of these factors in mind, I can live with this decision, though I ultimately disagree with it.

My preferred option – Tyler Austin: You already read my thoughts on Austin up above, so I won’t go too far into it again, but I think this was the move here. His value to the Yankees is as a backup to Bird when Bird gets hurt again (knock on wood), but until then he is purely a backup with the ability to pinch hit (probably for Bird) when a tough lefty reliever comes in. For this reason, and the fact that he has Minor League options left, he would have gotten the bad news if I was running the show. But I’m not. I occasionally write Fanposts on Pinstripe Alley.

Hope you all enjoyed this, and I think I was very thorough, but if I missed any angles, let me know in the comments. I look forward to reading them.


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