The Yankees’ search for a supplementary second or third baseman has seemingly come to a standstill. If the club cannot acquire infield pieces before spring training begins seven weeks from now, general manager Brian Cashman is reportedly prepared to hand over the reins to rookies Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar.
“If the market changes, we’re prepared to adjust,” Cashman told the New York Post. “But right now, we’re still treading water. This is what we’ve got, in addition to other guys like Tyler Wade and [Thairo] Estrada. I’m excited with what we have.
“Each market has a life of its own. But I like our team as it stands. That doesn’t mean we’re a finished product or that we’re perfect or that there aren’t teams that are better than us.”
With the intent to further shed payroll, the Yankees dealt second baseman Starlin Castro to the Miami Marlins and third baseman Chase Headley to the San Diego Padres in early December. These two moves subsequently created vacancies in the infield, and although hot stove rumblings have connected New York with free agents like Todd Frazier and Eduardo Nunez, to name a few, the combination of Torres and Andujar — complemented by a utility man like Ronald Torreyes — could be the viable solution. Call it the cheapest fix, too, as it would suit a team striving to get under the $197 million luxury tax threshold by next winter.
Whether or not the Yankees spend money on a cheap veteran infielder prior to Opening Day, a big league opportunity is now lined up for Torres, who is baseball’s top-ranked prospect, according to MLBPipeline.
Had he not underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow last June, Torres might have received a late summer promotion to the Majors. But over the last few months, the touted youngster has trained and rehabbed at the team’s facility in Tampa, Fla., and according to Cashman, is “ready to go” physically and on track for spring training activities.
“We might be careful with him this spring regardless because of the injury, but we wanted him in Tampa so we would be able to control how much he did,” Cashman said of Torres, who slashed .309/.406/.457 in 23 Triple-A games last season. “Now that he’s fully healthy, we want to see more of what he can do.”
Based on reports from last spring, former Yankees’ skipper Joe Girardi wanted a then 20-year-old Torres to skip Double-A and Triple-A while Didi Gregorius was on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. However, Cashman wasn’t inclined to make that move, and Torres thrived for nearly three months in the minors.
Once again, there’s no guarantee that Torres sees the Bronx this April, but if he performs well in camp, second base could be his. There wouldn’t be much pressure on him to excel either, as a loaded lineup featuring sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez will carry most of the load. The worst case scenario is that Torres struggles early, and returns back to Triple-A for more experience. Low risk and high reward here.
“These are real high character guys, guys you want to be around, guys that are going to impact our clubhouse in a positive way,” Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone recently told MLB.com. “All accounts on Gleyber is he’s that guy. Whether he’s impacting our club from Jump Street, again, remains to be seen. But I’m really excited about his long-term future with us.”
As for Andujar, who got a taste of the Majors in late June, the club seems to have clear understanding of what he can offer at the next level. His bat is probably Major League-ready, as he hit .315 with 16 home runs and 82 RBI in 125 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year. But the concerns revolve around his defense, which needs to be sound at the hot corner. This offseason, Andujar played ball in the Dominican Republic, where he hit .185 with just one fielding error in 18 games.
“We know the player he is,’’ Cashman said. “We saw him go from Double-A to Triple-A to the Big Leagues last year. He played third base at Yankee Stadium. He’ll compete. He’s earned the right to bang on the door, and he has a chance to knock it down. If he needs more time, he’ll get it.”
At the moment, it’s unclear how the Yankees will assign playing time for internal candidates, but a team that was young in 2017 could become even younger in 2018 if Torres and Andujar make enough noise.