Things change pretty quickly, and situations are constantly in flux within the construction of a Major League roster. What seemed like a certainty a year or six months ago can turn into a huge question mark, right before you know it.
There have been recent rumors about the Yankees discussing a Gleyber Torres with the Seattle Mariners, and although it is still fairly unlikely that these were more than preliminary talks (which teams often have), the perception around the industry is that GM Brian Cashman is open for business with his middle infield group, particularly Gleyber Torres and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The Yankees saw the debuts of Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza during the 2022 season go really well, and both of them are middle infielders by nature, even if Cabrera spent most of his time with a seamless transition into the outfield.
There is also the hopefully soon arrival of highly-touted shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe, and last but not least the almost set presence of DJ LeMahieu and Josh Donaldson with this team for 2023. It’s not that the Yankees wouldn’t like or at least consider moving either one of those veteran bats, but their contracts make that pretty unfeasible.
In the end, if the Yankees want to make a trade with one of their middle infield bats, and take advantage of this surplus at the moment, it's going to be with either IKF or Torres. Only one of those will bring back an impactful return, and it isn’t Kiner-Falefa. Understanding that Peraza and Cabrera aren’t and shouldn’t be available, Gleyber Torres is the one legitimate trade chip the Yankees have in this position of middle infielders and third basemen, and a deal to send him away should only happen for one reason.
The narrative that a team should only be open to making a deal with an overwhelming offer is a little over-simplistic, but there has been a lot of talk about the flexibility that a Torres trade would generate. That shouldn’t be the focus; it should simply be a consequence.
Yes, LeMahieu and Donaldson are certainly capable of bouncing back, and their decline isn’t set in stone, and yes, Cabrera and Peraza could very easily continue to evolve as ballplayers with the same production they delivered in 2022 over larger sample sizes. However, it can be argued that the highest floor in terms of offensive production out of that infield group is that of Torres, and there really shouldn’t be a movement to deal him with the possibility of opening up space as the driving force.
LeMahieu has been valuable when truly healthy, but that’s seldom been the case over the past couple years. Donaldson showed no indications to expect any sort of real production from his bat in 2023, but he’s likely to stay on because the Yankees don’t have a lot of options with him, and an outright release is too drastic as of right now.
A Torres deal should be on the table, but if the organization’s main goal is to open up at-bats for Peraza and Cabrera, particularly on the infield, then the next step should be to trade IKF, and not Gleyber. Peraza can be the everyday shortstop until Volpe is ready, and Cabrera can move around, and even in a pinch, you know that Torres has experience at short, even if at a questionable level.
No, you won’t get anywhere near the same return for IKF as Torres would net, but the objective here is to give Cabrera and Perza at-bats they earned, and the maintenance of Torres elevates the floor of the whole offense, whereas IKF wouldn’t. It should be stated that there has been no indication that the Yankees are trying to trade Torres for that reason, but the notion of it as one of the primary goals for this hypothetical deal has been thrown around the rumor mill too often for us to ignore it.
Out of the quartet of Donaldson, LeMahieu, Torres, and IKF, Gleyber is the one trade chip the Yankees actually have and the most reliable in terms of offensive production. There really isn’t a great reason to put him on the block unless you love the return you’re getting.