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Considering the Yankees’ options at shortstop for 2021

Ideally, the first week of 2021 was a blip on the radar for Gleyber Torres. If it wasn’t? Well, then things get interesting.

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Four Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Coming into the 2021 season, numerous fans and writers had concerns over the Yankees’ starting rotation, and even the bullpen to an extent. The offense is pretty stacked from top-to-bottom, so no one batted an eye. Although it’s extremely early in the year, it’s the offense that has stalled at times and been the concern, while the pitching has been nothing less than lights out. These early issues are normal, especially after playing only six games.

However, another concern shared by many around baseball was the defense of Gleyber Torres at shortstop. Would he be able to improve his glove at a premium position after a lackluster 2020? Through his 1,188.1 career innings at short and his -16 DRS over that span, Torres has not yet proven that he can man the position.

This is obviously something that the Yankees might not have thought they would need to pay attention to so early in the season. But alas, after just 54 innings in the field, the 24-year-old has already cost his team two runs, and it could only get worse from here. So what should New York do about the situation if his shaky play continues? They have a few choices.

Keep Torres at shortstop

The first option is simple: keep Torres at short and hope he can figure himself out. Remember, not only is the season young, but so is he. If the Yankees really believe he can be their franchise shortstop — both offensively and defensively — they need to lock him in and give him as many reps as possible. It is a valid point that Torres has yet to play a true 162-game season at the position, so perhaps he just needs to get used to it again, and the familiarity will bring some stability.

That roll of the dice surely will come with its risks, but as we look at the other options the team has, they will all require taking a chance and crossing your fingers. This is most straightforward choice, and it’s certainly logical. Even if the Yanks do keep Torres on the left side of the infield, they could still think about removing him late in close games and running someone like Tyler Wade out there as a defensive replacement.

Shuffle the infield

This isn’t extremely ideal, but the Yankees could have their players move out of their everyday positions and mix it up on the infield dirt. New York could shift DJ LeMahieu over to the hot corner, move Torres back to second, and slide Gio Urshela to shortstop.

If this were to be the case, it really wouldn’t benefit the team, though. It might actually do more harm than good. Urshela hasn’t played shortstop since 2018, and in fact has only appeared in 50 games at the position throughout his 12-year professional career. Further complicating matters is the fact that the last time LeMahieu manned third base at a decent sample size, he registered -2 DRS over 400 innings in 2019.

If the Yankees shift the infield around, that will also mean that guys like Wade or maybe even Rougned Odor will get more playing time. With their likely well below-average offensive numbers, that would not be of much assistance to the team. Besides, Torres doesn’t exactly become a Gold Glove candidate with a move back to second, either. Between 2018-2019, he committed 21 errors and cost the team six total runs. It might not matter where you play Torres. He may very well just be a subpar defender wherever he plays.

Make a trade

Finally, the Yankees could try to swing a trade for a better shortstop, but that would most likely come at the cost of either Luke Voit or Gio Urshela in some capacity. The infield would be a tad crowded trying to find regular playing time for the new infielder, Voit, Torres, LeMahieu, and Urshela (not to mention Odor if he’s involved). Maybe they could make it work, but it would be tricky.

Looking ahead at the upcoming offseason market for shortstops though, it may be the most dominant one in years. It features names like Trevor Story, Javier Báez, Corey Seager, and Carlos Correa. Realistically speaking, if the Yankees did look for a trade candidate, it would either be Story or Báez. The latter’s availability will almost undoubtedly depend on whether or not the Cubs can indeed contend in the NL Central, but the Rockies are going nowhere, so Story could be the top player moved at the deadline.

Both players would be massive upgrades to the infield, and may not come at a super steep prize, being that they would be labeled as “rentals.” Would the Yankees make a run at either? They could, but they might also wait until the offseason to push for one of these four names if they choose to do so, rather than giving up prospects for them now and potentially losing them in free agency.

It’s still very early in the season, so a lot of the panic is exaggerated. However, the Yankees will be keeping an eye on this situation and will surely have to make a decision, one way or another.