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The Yankees are running out of options with Gleyber Torres

How much longer can the Yankees ride with Gleyber Torres in the lineup?

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

In 267 games to start his career between 2018 and 2019, Gleyber Torres slashed .275/.338/.511 with 62 home runs, 167 RBI, a .354 wOBA, 123 wRC+, and 5.6 fWAR. He looked like a star in the making. Since 2020, however, Torres has looked like a shadow of his former self. In 179 games, he has slashed a meager .251/.331/.364 with just 13 home runs, 69 RBI, a .308 wOBA, 95 wRC+, and 1.8 fWAR. While he’s made modest improvements to both his walk and strikeout rates over that time, he’s gone from budding star to a below-league-average player. As for the defensive side of things, well, Yankees fans are all too familiar with how that’s worked out so far for the now-former starting shortstop.

After a strong showing in the spring, though, there was some cautious optimism that Torres was finally on his way to getting his career back on track. After the first 10 games, it’s safe to say that this brief glimmer of hope has all but evaporated. In 36 plate appearances this year, Torres is slashing just .161/.229/.323 with one homer, two RBI, a .247 wOBA, and a 59 wRC+.

On the defensive side of the ball, Gleyber’s glove has admittedly looked a bit better at second, but it’s still nothing to write home about (and there have still been some weird plays anyway). He’s also still unplayable at shortstop in a pinch. Once again, Torres is hitting at a below-league average rate without the defensive ability to pick his value up.

While it’s still too early to read too much into this season’s numbers, his play over the last two-plus years indicates that this is a trend, not a blip.

For the first time in his career, Gleyber may be the odd man out.

DJ LeMahieu has gotten off to a hot start at the plate, routinely driving the ball to right with conviction, and playing very strong defense at three different positions. While a lot of LeMahieu’s value to the team comes from his ability to play all over the infield, thus freeing guys like Josh Donaldson up to DH on occasion, his bat needs to be in the lineup every day, especially given the team’s offensive struggles to start the season.

At other spots around the infield, Anthony Rizzo has backed up solid play at first with a strong showing of power to begin the season, while Donaldson, whose bat hasn’t quite come around yet, has played commendable defense at third. As of right now, they’re both players this team needs in the lineup as much as possible. That’s already three players for four infield spots (catcher notwithstanding, of course) who are far superior with the glove and who show much more promise with the bat.

The final piece of the puzzle is light-hitting shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Even though he got off to a rocky start in the field, his glove has started to stabilize a bit over the last few games and, despite a seeming inability to drive the ball with any sort of power, he is still performing better at the plate than Torres. Beyond just Kiner-Falefa’s small sample size performance so far, though, there’s also the fact that Brian Cashman openly quashed the Gleyber Torres, Yankees Shortstop experiment at the end of last season. (Interestingly, though, Torres has been used as a late-game replacement for IKF at short despite the presence of Marwin Gonzalez on the bench...)

With three guys who need to be in the lineup everyday and a fourth infielder who is pretty much the same hitter with a better glove at short, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for Torres in the lineup. I didn’t think I’d be writing this just 10 games into the season, but, as it stands right now, the ideal lineup for this team does not include Gleyber Torres. As a result, it looks like he is unfortunately due for a reduction in playing time, which might be foreshadowed by his absence from last night’s lineup to start the series in Detroit.

What would an actual reduction in playing time look like for Gleyber, though? That all depends on their game plan when it comes to Donaldson and Rizzo. So far this year, Donaldson has been DH in three games while Rizzo has been DH in just one. Assuming they continue to allow Giancarlo Stanton to play the field semi-regularly and rotate through the DH spot, Donaldson would likely slot into the DH spot once or twice per week, with Rizzo potentially hopping in there once every couple of weeks. On days when they are in the DH spot instead of Stanton, LeMahieu would slide over to cover their infield positions and Torres would slot in at second base to cover him. This likely means that, while Torres’ playing time would be reduced from a starter’s workload, he’d still be given a few shots per week to get his bat back on track.

Just for the purpose of due diligence, I am aware that Torres still has two minor league options remaining, meaning that a reduction in playing time might not be necessary if he were to be sent down, but in my opinion this organization will not demote him to the minors to get himself sorted out. If they were going to do that, it probably already would have happened already.

Of course, this entire premise comes with the huge caveat that injuries happen, and, should Torres see a reduction in playing time like the one outlined above, it’d only be a matter of time before someone gets injured and Torres would be forced back into the starting lineup. But for now, while everyone is healthy to begin the season, he seems like the odd man out.