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Yankees move Gleyber Torres back to second, could signal plan for remainder of 2021

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Torres’ defense at shortstop has been horrid all year long, and a move back has felt inevitable.

New York Yankees v Seattle Mariners Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Sunday night’s loss to the Mets was the Yankees’ 12th in the last 15 games and featured one aspect that has regrettably plagued their defense all season long. In the bottom of the second, Gleyber Torres bobbled a routine grounder at shortstop, allowing Kevin Pillar to reach base to start the inning. Before pitcher Clarke Schmidt could fully escape, Francisco Lindor began his night of terror, launching a three-run homer to twist the knife on the miscue.

Torres partially made up for it by countering with a two-run homer of his own later in the game — his first long ball since July 21st — but it wasn’t enough to make the difference. The Yankees lost by one run, and while there was plenty of blame to go around, Torres’ early error stuck out like a sore thumb. It would be one matter if this was an outlier, but time and time again throughout the past two seasons, the man has unfortunately proven that he is not an MLB-caliber shortstop (especially with his bat only at a 92 OPS+ since the start of 2020).

The Yankees have at last seemingly decided that they can no longer keep up the act. Prior to Monday’s matinee against the Twins, manager Aaron Boone announced that Torres would be used at second for at least the immediate future:

Tyler Wade is getting the start today at shortstop, but Boone said to expect more of Gio Urshela at the position than his typical third base, where DJ LeMahieu will cover for him. (It appears that LeMahieu is over the triceps injury that kept him from the hot corner while Urshela was on the shelf in August.)

It’s completely fair to point out — as MLB.com’s Mike Petriello did — that from 2018-19, Torres didn’t exactly handle the keystone like Robinson Canó. He might simply just not be an infielder long-term, and it’s also hard to say for sure what the Yankees’ plans there now entail with this all-but-official step back from Torres as the primary shortstop (and both LeMahieu and Urshela’s own 2021 struggles). Perhaps a free agent pursuit of one of the several available shortstops is slightly more likely, or at least a stopgap for until either top prospects Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe might potentially be ready — if either can remain at the position themselves.

However, simply leaving Torres at shortstop for the rest of the season was untenable. The Yankees are falling apart and in serious danger of missing the playoffs entirely — a prospect that seemed unthinkable prior to the start of the 2021 campaign. Torres was a defensive sieve and not even making the easy plays. This was a tough-but-straightforward solution. If there’s any sign of Torres’ bat coming around — as the homer last night hopefully indicates — then it’s worth keeping him in the lineup for the time being. Torres just can’t be a shortstop, so stick him at second and see what Urshela and Wade can do in the interim.

It’s crunch time for the 2021 Yankees. They might have waited too long to act, but at least they did something to recognize that something needed to change.