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Looking back at the Yankees’ trade for Gleyber Torres

Let’s look back to when the Yankees acquired Gleyber Torres now that there’s chatter about a call up.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at New York Mets Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest moments of the Yankees’ rebuild was actually a listless, boring series against the Rays. In a three-game set with Tampa Bay in July of 2016, the Yankees dropped all three games, pushing them to an even 52-52 at the trade deadline. Even though it was apparent for weeks prior that the Yankees should sell off their short-term contracts like Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew Miller, the Steinbrenners believed they could still compete right up to the deadline.

This stretch, as silly as it seems, ultimately forced ownership to act. Here is what Brian Cashman said at the time:

“It didn’t impact it for me, but I think it definitely influenced the people above me more... This team started to play better, started to impact the win column better. Then the inconsistency of our club reared its ugly head again when we went into Tampa Bay and lost all three games. A true playoff contender, not a playoff pretender, wouldn’t do that.’’

So Hal Steinbrenner and company ultimately pulled the trigger, giving way to their better angels, and the Yankees acquired the likes of Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, and Dillon Tate. Interestingly enough, the best prospect of the entire haul came to the team before that deflating series, during a July 25th trade with the Cubs.

That brings us to Gleyber Torres. If it had not been for that lowly series; say, the Yankees miraculously swept the Rays, the Yankees may have clutched their pearls. They likely would have seen the rise of Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, and Gary Sanchez anyway, but it would have significantly hurt their farm system, all things considered.

At the time of the deal, where the Yankees gave the Cubs the final piece of their first championship in a century, no one would have guessed it would end up being the swipe it was. Eric Longenhagen had the following scouting grades when the trade went down:

Tools: Present/Future

Hit: 40/60

Raw Power: 50/55

Game Power: 40/50

Run: 50/45

Field: 40/45

FV: 55

Chris Mitchell also used his scouting projection system to project Torres, and while the caveats with something like that are many, the result was a median 7.1 WAR, if you factor in statistical and scouting projections.

If you were to fast forward to today, that’s likely near ten wins using back-of-the-napkin math. FanGraphs rated him as a 60 FV and the 12th best prospect in baseball, despite Tommy John surgery in his non-throwing arm, which is still pretty remarkable given the lost development time.

Baseball America had a glowing review in the following year’s scouting report:

“He’s an excellent bet to stay at shortstop because of his soft, quick hands and smooth actions around the bag... Evaluators in the Florida State League compared his defensive chops with the Reds’ Zack Cozart. What makes Torres special, however, is his offensive potential. At just 19 years old he already has excellent pitch recognition skills and has shown the ability to sort through breaking pitches in order to get to the fastball he desires...”

Now, nearly two years later, and as we reach the dawn of the Torres Era, I think we can already rate the Chapman trade as a total success. For what was a useless half-season, the Yankees may have an infielder of the future, and Chapman was reacquired anyway the following year. Even though the Steinbrenners were so hesitant, it ended up going beyond their expectations. Hopefully that teaches them a lesson when and if that situation arises again.