The news of fan-favorite Ronald Torreyes’ demotion shook Yankees Universe to the core, from the fans on social media to the players in the clubhouse. Torreyes was beloved for his old school hustle and small-ball stroke that led to a .339 batting average so far this season.
Looking at the numbers, Torreyes is clearly a great contributor off the bench, and based on everything said about him by his teammates, is great for clubhouse morale. Little Torreyes leaves behind a big void in the locker room, which has led many to question the move by Brian Cashman to send Torreyes down after calling up Greg Bird. It was a tough call for the front office, but one they had to make, and one that will be forgotten if the Yankees continue to win.
First, let’s look at the move from a baseball standpoint. Bird, as Cashman has reiterated, is the Yankees’ first baseman of the future. Sure, he’s struggled with injuries over the early years of his major league career, but when healthy, he has shown incredible potential. After returning from ankle surgery last season, Bird swatted eight homers in the final month of the regular season, which translates to 47 dingers over a 162 game pace. His lefty bat brings balance to lineup overflowing with right-handed power. If Bird is healthy, he has to be in the lineup.
The candidates to be sent down aside from Torreyes were Tyler Austin or a bullpen arm like A.J. Cole. Neil Walker, who is out of options and cannot be sent down, has a wRC+ of 155 this month and has no business being removed from the current roster, especially given his infield versatility. Meanwhile, Austin has shown an ability to hit left-handed pitching, and the Yankees likely want him around so they can rest Bird over the first few weeks to ease him back into an everyday role. In terms of pitching, the Yanks find themselves in the middle of a stretch where they play 14 games in 13 days, and given how long the starting pitching lasts on the mound aside from Luis Severino, they will need all the arms they can get during this daunting part of the schedule.
Torreyes’ value in the dugout and around his teammates who love his energy shouldn’t be undervalued. However, winning will cure any disdain over losing Torreyes for the time being. Todd Frazier, who quickly became a clubhouse favorite during the Yankees’ postseason run last season, was not brought back in the offseason despite the Yankees not having a definitive plan at third base for 2018. Many fans clamored for Frazier to return with his high-energy and laid-back style, but he gave way to Miguel Andujar, who has been spectacular for the Yanks so far. Every extra base hit that Andujar mashes pushes Frazier’s memory farther into the rearview mirror. If Bird and Walker produce while Gleyber Torres continues to make history, than the move to demote Torreyes will likely become a distant memory.
Sending down a fan-favorite is a tough move, but sometimes the tough decisions have to be made. The Yankees have tried the other way in 2014, when Derek Jeter and his 76 OPS+ played a full season at shortstop during the final year of his Hall of Fame career. Playing Jeter in a lesser role during his farewell tour would have led to riots, so Joe Girardi kept him at shortstop, even though there were likely better defensive options out there. Jeter’s popularity in New York is light years ahead of Torreyes, but the concept is similar.
Many are still angry about Torreyes leaving the Bronx, but he will likely be back sooner than later. If the Yankees find themselves in first place by the time Torreyes returns, many will have forgotten that he even left.