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Defending the incumbent: Gleyber Torres in 2022

There are real upgrades, and then there are the possibilities that leave the team worse.

Wild Card Round - New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images

We’ve spilled a lot of ink around the question of who should play shortstop for the Yankees in 2022. I myself just wrote about how I think Matt Chapman has real potential to fill the position, along with the clear upgrades in free agency like Carlos Correa and Trevor Story. And then there are the downgrades, the Andrelton Simmons or current Yankee Gio Urshela, and lastly, the lateral move, a guy like Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

But why not... Gleyber Torres?

I know, I know, the Yankees should upgrade at shortstop, and heck, even Brian Cashman has said that they need to. But I want to focus, today, on that word upgrade. Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, even Matt Chapman I think provide more total production, more runs scored plus runs prevented, than Gleyber Torres will as shortstops in 2022. I also think Corey Seager would have, but that ship has sailed.

After those three, though, I’m not sure there is an actual upgrade to Torres. Let’s just straight up take their 2021 production:

Torres had as bad a season as seemed possible. He had a couple of short hot streaks and a lot of looking lost at the plate. His defense...well, the less said about it the better. He was even at the center of the old “doesn’t run hard” debate. And in spite of all that, he was better than two of the players that could take over at short in 2022. Even if you want to point out that Gio Urshela missed time in 2021, sure, by prorating both players’ production to 650 PA, Torres was still more valuable by three-quarters of a win.

Meanwhile, perhaps more important than what these guys did in 2021 is what we can reasonably conclude they’ll do in 2022. To wit:

Yes, yes, caveats around projections and all that. But we use projections to reach reasonable conclusions about players — we think the Yankee pitching is probably gonna be pretty good in 2022, partially because it’s projected to be pretty good in 2022. Gleyber Torres is projected to be a much better option than these three cheap “stopgap” options, so I’m having a hard time imagining an upgrade to be found here.

Torres’ value is, of course, going to come from a different place. IKF and Simmons are going to provide more value in the field, no question. Gio Urshela, who isn’t a shortstop, probably will as well. None of them are likely to match Torres offensively, though, and value is cumulative. As I said above, we need to consider runs scored and runs prevented, and yeah, Gleyber quadruple-clutching a soft groundball in the seventh inning is going to cost the Yankees a run, but Simmons popping up with men on the corners in the eighth is too, and I’m willing to bet that the latter happens more frequently than the former.

Now don’t misunderstand me. The Yankees should improve the roster by acquiring a better shortstop — the best possible 2022 roster includes Torres at second, with Correa, or Story, or Chapman as his double play partner. But those are the upgrades — the guys that will provide more total value, more total wins, at shortstop than Torres will. The costs of acquisition, then, are proportionally higher, and there’s real questions about whether the Yankees are willing to pony up. If they’re not, Torres remains the next best option. It’s hard to believe after his 2021, but unless the Yankees are serious about an upgrade, the tie should go to the incumbent.