The Yankees look as one might have expected – a favorite. But there is one move that Brian Cashman missed – and it may well haunt the team as 2020 unfolds.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman is not so quietly building a Hall of Fame resume that is made on smart, fiscally responsible, and well-researched trades and signings that have propelled the team to eighteen playoff appearances since his hiring in 1998.
But there is one move that Cashman may have missed, and it could prove costly for the Yankees in 2020.
Yankees: A Rarity – Cashman Dumps A Problem On Boone
Gleyber Torres is a host of magnificent baseball talent, but he is not a major league shortstop. In a COVID interrupted Spring Training, Torres made four errors fielding the position, and there hasn’t been any significant improvement since the season has resumed for Summer Camp.
Torres split 2019 between shortstop (77 games) and second base (65 games), but his appearances at shortstop were mainly of necessity while Didi Gregorius healed from an injury. When Gregorius returned, Aaron Boone wasted no time in moving Torres over to second base.
At the close of the 2019 season, Gregorius became and filed as a free-agent. Cashman weighed his choices and decided to pass on Gregorius, who ultimately signed with the Philadelphia Phillies on a one-year contract that reunited him with former Yankee’s manager, Joe Girardi.
There was never any indication that Didi Gregorius preferred to leave the Yankees. But at the same time, it appeared he was waiting for the Cashman (and the Yankees) to throw him a bone as thanks for a job well done as the heir to Derek Jeter‘s throne.
For reasons unknown to this day, Cashman never wholly entered the fray for Gregorius.
Perhaps feeling comfortable with DJ LeMahieu having a regular position at second base, together with the youth of Gleyber Torres emerging with the hope his fielding can catch up with his bat, Cashman sat still.
The Yankees Challenge: Absorb Cashman’s Inaction
Today, however, the picture barely looks bright for the Yankees as you look at the middle of their infield.
Torres is indeed installed at shortstop, but LeMahieu will, in all probability, not make the Yankees debut in Washington against the Nationals on July 23 due to COVID-19 related issues.
Aaron Boone’s current remedy is to install Tyler Wade at second base until LeMahieu is pronounced fit to play. The absence of Didi Gregorius now becomes glaring.
In the eight days between now and Opening Day, Boone might well consider switching positions for Torres and Wade, even though Torres’ fielding stats at second are not much better than at shortstop.
The hole in the wall stems back, however, to Cashman and possibly the Yankee’s higher-ups not signing Gregorius, who let’s face it – came in at well under the wire of what he was projected to cost with a multi-year deal (one-year $14 million).
Stocked well in the outfield and pitching, the depth of the Yankees does not extend to their infield, especially in the critical up the middle positions.
Barring a trade, Brian Cashman has no one to rely on in the minors ready to step in to do the job, at least until LeMahieu makes it back.
And even then, any team weakness in a shortened regular season of two (as opposed to six) months is bound to exaggerate itself.
Fast starts will be crucial and may be conclusive in the odd but exciting 2020 season. And we will not see the left-hand bat (much needed in the Yankees lineup) of Didi Gregorius.
Gleyber Torres: The Future Face Of the Yankees
A word about Gleyber Torres, though, before we leave. Only 23, feel good in knowing he will eventually replace Aaron Judge as the face of the Yankees unless Judge can stay on the field doing what the Yankees need him to do – for a full season.
When you pause to look at the progression of Torres, everything in every category is up. He is a star on the rise.
But that surge can be stalled if the Yankees and Cashman are unable to find a place in the field, other than shortstop, where he can relax, letting his athletic abilities, plus his bat, speed, and baseball instincts take over.
After all, is it not true Derek Jeter played two decades in a Yankees uniform with the tag of being a “so-so” fielder – and look where he is today.
In the meantime, though, Brian Cashman owes the Yankees a move in return for his lapse in letting Didi Gregorius go. Primarily, that is, if DJ Lemahieu’s absence continues for any more than the first week of the 2020 season.