While the Yankees were preparing to take on the Astros in Game Five yesterday afternoon, Gleyber Torres was telling the world that he’s back to hitting in the batting cages. The organization’s top prospect suffered an arm injury during the minor league season, ending in Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. Now that he’s getting back into playing form, it’s time to remind everyone who the future really is, even with the success the Yankees are seeing in the playoffs right now.
The Yankees acquired Torres at the 2016 deadline when Brian Cashman sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for a package of prospects. Since he joined the organization, Torres has continued his development into a can’t-miss middle infielder. He pushed through Double-A and was doing well in Triple-A when he went down in June. If Torres proves to be healthy to start the year, there’s reason to believe he could be up at the major league level before midseason. That would work out perfectly for this team.
After long months of recovery I can finally hit again and that makes me super happy. Now let's keep working and keep improving pic.twitter.com/TYSSEj0Cvo— Gleyber Torres (@TorresGleyber) October 18, 2017
Right now, as the Yankees’ roster is constructed, this team has five starting infielders for four different positions. This “issue” will be alleviated in the offseason when Todd Frazier hits the open market, but some fans have declared their desire to see him back in pinstripes. Frazier has proved to be a likable member of this team as a leader in the clubhouse and the originator of the thumbs down movement. Collecting eight hits, three walks, and five RBI in the playoffs—especially when the team has needed it most—has only helped his cause for a return.
However, I’m here to say that no matter what happens over the next two weeks, Torres has to remain the longterm goal for this franchise. Consider that, despite Frazier’s playoff success, he has remained about a league average hitter over the last two seasons, even with all those home runs he hit last year. We collectively like to say that he’s a wizard with the glove at third base, but how many times has he let a ball hit right to him get between his legs? He just did that last night. Sure, Chase Headley’s throws to first are an adventure, but so is every other play with Frazier.
It’s also worth noting that Frazier is basically Chase Headley anyway. His PECOTA comp at Baseball Prospectus is literally Chase Headley, so why have two? We thought the Headley contract was a good deal, but that became a disappointment almost immediately. Frazier is likely to get more than the four year, $52 million contract Headley received, and this team does not need that contract on its roster.
The best thing for the Yankees to do next year is to let Frazier walk and simply allow Headley to take back his role as third baseman now that Greg Bird is finally healthy again. Headley has one year left on his deal, so by midseason, there’s no reason to keep Torres down if he’s hitting well.
It’s important to remember that Gleyber has three means of reaching the big leagues next year, so it’s a good idea to keep at least one of these paths clear. As a shortstop playing second base with the tools to play third, it doesn’t really matter where he plays and who he replaces as long as he gets playing time.
Shortstop is probably out as an option for him considering the ascension of Didi Gregorius. If they want Torres to play second, Starlin Castro can either move to third or get moved out. The Yankees can also push Headley out and install their young prospect at third. Basically, they will be able to use him wherever they need him most.
Frazier has generated a lot of good will in the last few weeks, but the Yankees are where they are now because of their talented young players more than their contributing veterans. It can often be better to leave a little too early than it is to stay a little too late. Enjoy what is happening now, but remember what is still yet to come.