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Gleyber Torres and the Yankees’ return to extension-averse form

Torres hasn’t received much action in the form of extension talks over the last two seasons.

Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Yankees Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Every organization gravitates towards certain tendencies, especially with the same regime for such a long time, as is the case with the New York Yankees and Brian Cashman. That is completely fine, but you can’t let that drive you away from certain decisions, and with that in mind, we’ll look at the Gleyber Torres situation.

Torres now has six years of experience with the Yankees and is set to become a free agent at the end of 2024. Through four out of those six seasons — five if you want to stretch it — Torres has been a consistent presence in this lineup, filling in at a position where it isn’t that easy to find good offensive production. After two top years to begin his career, Torres encountered some struggles in 2020 and 2021 but has since reestablished himself as a key part of this offense. Defensively while far from a savant at second, Torres has been able to take the load there consistently.

Despite having many more positives than negatives across his career in the Bronx, there is a very healthy possibility that Torres won’t be wearing pinstripes come Opening Day 2025. Not only has there been a failure to secure an extension with Torres, but the franchise has looked mostly uninterested in pursuing one. Before last season, Gleyber was quoted as saying they didn’t pursue one with him.

Did the Yanks discuss an extension? “I wish, but no,” said Torres, 26, who would be eligible for free agency after the 2024 season.
“I’ve got two more years of control. If they don’t trade me...I think I’ve got two more opportunities,” Torres said of convincing the Yankees that he’s in their long-term plans. “I feel like this is my home, for sure.”

This seems to represent the return of a trend. From 2009 until February 2019, the only notable extension issued* was to Brett Gardner just before the 2014 campaign. It somewhat resembles the Gleyber situation since Gardner was also a year away from free agency. However, he was already 30 by then, and the younger Torres will likely be in position for a better payday.

*CC Sabathia’s extension was a unique case sparked by a potential opt-out.

In February 2019 though, the Yankees did issue a pair of extensions, to Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks. Those two players stand out as examples of extensions during arbitrations that came back to burn the Yanks.

After a pair of strong campaigns in 2017 and ‘18, the Yankees handed Hicks a seven-year deal to keep him in town at an affordable below-market rate — if he continued the trend he’d shown in those past two campaigns. Hicks was solid in an injury-riddled 2019 campaign, and then again in 2020, but afterward it was all downhill. (It’s worth remarking that unlike Hicks, Torres has not only a better pedigree coming up but a longer track record of stable production.)

Severino dealt with the most extreme of impacts when it comes to talking about injury risk. He was never able to stay healthy after he signed that extension. His made a little more sense at the time, but the results are regrettably the results. The reality is that New York has pretty much let Gleyber play out his whole arbitration period without the pursuit of a new deal.

Ultimately, there is risk in every approach. You risk getting stuck with a declining player like you did with Hicks if you hand them an extension. However, you also risk losing the player or paying up way more than what you previously would’ve (see: Judge, Aaron), if you always take it year-by-year.

With Gleyber Torres specifically, there were enough positive signs to maybe pursue a deal before last season, and that didn’t happen. It’s easy to raise eyebrows at it. Unfortunately, the reality is that the Yankees just don’t have a lot of reliable figures in their lineup under team control beyond 2024 outside of Judge. One hopes that former top prospect Anthony Volpe takes steps forward after an up-and-down rookie season and that the Yankees can re-sign Juan Soto next offseason, but the New York Yankees should probably have a higher standard than just “hope.”

Coming off a strong 2023, Torres will most likely play out his final year before free agency, and whether he remains a Yankee long-term or not, it’ll be for way more than it could’ve been. Sure, maybe 2021 put a wrinkle on this whole thing, but it doesn’t totally explain the passive behavior since.