We’re coached to dislike the status quo in sports. Moves must be made especially after a disappointing season. The remnants of the 2023 Yankees will require a lot of work to overhaul into a playoff-caliber roster, but there’s one move that doesn’t need to be made; any kind of decision on Gleyber Torres.
Yankee fans have been bifurcated for more than a year on the issue of trading or extending the second baseman. There’s a camp that insists he’s at peak value and the team should therefore sell high on him, and a camp that believes he’s an integral part not just of the 2024 Yankees, but the next six or seven years. And the truth is, he’s probably not either of those things, and the right move for him and the Yankees is to let him play out his 2024, post his regular 120 or so wRC+, and let him hit the open market next season.
Let’s start with what we know. Aside from a season where it sure seemed like he was dealing with long-term COVID affects — and I think one of the things that will come out in the next 3-5 years is a research consensus about how infection affects high-level athletes — you can pencil in that 120ish wRC+, and adequate defense at the less important middle-infield position. He’s not the MVP-caliber bat some folks thought he might be, but he’ll chip in with threeish wins every year and you can count on that.
Above-average MLB starters are valuable, to a point, and the Yankees are rapidly approaching that point with Gleyber. With one more year under contract, the Extend camp wants him locked up, but there’s so little incentive on Gleyber’s side to do that. He’s a year away from free agency, whatever you project he’ll land on the open market is right about what it would take to keep him — otherwise he’ll just bank that 120 wRC+ and let all 30 teams place their bids.
This final year of team control is always a tricky one, since players are more than happy to bet on themselves. The only time the Yankees actually tried to extend Aaron Judge was the month before he started the best season in the last 20 years, and the Mets are right in this situation themselves with Pete Alonso. Players don’t think they’re going to get hurt, don’t think they’re going to get sick, and for the second time in this era the Yankees have missed an opportunity to lock up a player by negotiating earlier in their career.
The folks at @mlbtraderumors released their 2024 arbitration salary projections. The Yankees have a big arb class but nearly half these guys will get non-tendered or released to clear 40-man space soon after the World Series.— River Ave. Blues (@RiverAveBlues) October 6, 2023
Link: https://t.co/rku2EecnSw pic.twitter.com/v49bDDUbS2
The other side of this debate is that Gleyber Torres won’t be worth the $15-odd million he’ll receive in arbitration, and he should be dealt when he’s supposedly at his highest value. The problem with this is value is a combination of production and control — if Juan Soto gets dealt this winter it will be for a smaller package than the Padres gave up, since he’s a year and a half closer to free agency.
Similarly, Gleyber’s not at his highest value either, and trading for him with just one season of control remaining isn’t likely to be worth the trouble. If he couldn’t net Pablo López 16 months ago, he’s only bringing back less now. Ergo, the best decision for the Yankees now is no decision at all; let Gleyber play out his year of control, bank the three wins, and let him test the market.
Torres is exactly the kind of player this system is designed for. He’s valuable but not a cornerstone, the type of guy that it would take work to replace but he’s also unlikely to get any better — the 2025 season will be his age-28 campaign, and he’s just not the elite talent that Aaron Judge or Gerrit Cole is, necessitating eating a decline phase.
“Let’s ride this out” isn’t the sexiest offseason plan. It won’t generate clicks or marble-mouthed Yankee Youtubers. In the case of Gleyber Torres, the Yankees are stuck in the middle with him, he’s too good to trade away, not “valuable” enough to bring back much of a return, not franchise-cornerstone material that merits an eight-year extension, and too close to free agency to waive his ability to negotiate on an open market. When the Yankees are facing more pressing questions — what to do with rookies who weren’t quite as good as we all hoped, and who the hell is playing left field — it’s best to bank Torres’ three wins and revisit this in a year.