Torres makes Yankees future appear bright

It is early November and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is struggling with a long list of roster decisions. Actually the dilemmas have more to do with money than finding room on an overcrowded roster. It’s the busiest – and in many ways the worst – time of the year for a baseball executive. And Cashman’s predicament is particularly daunting as it means deciding the future of the Yankees’ infield.

Here’s the impasse that awaits: Didi Gregorius will be eligible for free agency. This is a no-brainer at first glance. The Yankees would gladly pay the shortstop who made everyone forget Derek Jeter, or at least the version of the Captain who slogged to the finish line of his career in 2014.

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Sippin’ On Gleyberade.

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But at whatever cost, the Yankees also need to find a bona fide ace on the open market. No. 1 on the shopping list is free agent-to-be Gerrit Cole, who is no lock to give the Astros a hometown discount. Instead, the right-hander will make himself available to the highest bidder – good news for the Yankees. Cashman hasn’t forgotten how Patrick Corbin slipped through their grasp last winter. This time, Cashman knows his financial strategy with Cole will be distilled down to three words: pay the man.

That’s a critical decision, because the Yankees also have to honor their commitment to Giancarlo Stanton, who’s been injured for most of the 2019 season. Despite being a non-factor, the Yankees have no choice but to remain loyal to the outfielder. Unless Stanton waives his no-trade clause, the Yankees will continue to pay him between $25-$32 million a year through the 2027 season.

Rich as they are, the Bombers can’t afford everyone. Someone has to go this winter. It wouldn’t be a crazy guess to vote Gregorius off the island and allow him to pull down the kind of contract he deserves elsewhere.

In this scenario Gleyber Torres will be the Yankees’ shortstop next year – and very possibly for the next decade. As sorry as the Yankees will be to see Didi go, Torres is more than ready to inherit the position – a five-tool star who excels on both sides of the ball.

Think of what Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar said about Torres when he was scouting the young Venezuelan as a Cubs’ prospect.

“(Gleyber) reminded me a lot of myself in the way he played the game and carried himself,” Alomar said. “I mean, I was quicker than him, but he had more power. You could see he was smiling, he was happy. You could tell he loved baseball. I was thinking, ‘Gleyber is me when I was a kid.’”

That was early 2016, before the multi-player trade that sent Torres to the Bronx in exchange for Aroldis Chapman. Fast forward three and a half years and all Torres has done is evolve into the Yankees’ most dangerous long-ball threat.

His home-run surge last week against the Orioles and Indians was breathtaking in its ease. Torres became the youngest player in MLB history to log seven multi-home run games in a single season, following the two blasts he launched against Cleveland on Saturday.

And Torres’ performance against Baltimore this year was right out of The Terminator. He set a single-season record by hitting 13 homers against the beleaguered Orioles’ staff – the most ever by one player against one team.

After watching the young Yankee hit three home runs during a doubleheader recently, O’s manager Brandon Hyde officially surrendered to Torres in the eighth inning of the nightcap.

Instead of giving Torres another chance to go deep, Hyde ordered an intentional walk, even though it meant loading the bases in a game the Orioles were already losing by five runs.

“I just kind of had enough,” Hyde said after the game. “We’re making him look like a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”

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Back to Work ✅

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You could forgive Hyde for the hyperbole: Torres isn’t headed for Cooperstown just yet. But with six weeks left in the regular season, he’s nevertheless leading the Yankees in home runs. That’s no small accomplishment on a roster that features Stanton and Aaron Judge, not to mention D.J. LeMahieu and Gio Urshela, both of whom are candidates to win the batting title.

But don’t expect Torres to gloat. His ego is wired to deflect praise. He’ll instead tell you about the virtues of hard work and deferring to the veterans in the clubhouse.

“I just try to stay humble, always,” Torres said. “I take the pitches I see and make the best of the opportunity.”

No wonder Yankees manager Aaron Boone one-ups reporters who ask about Torres’ surprising season.

“Gleyber’s not a good player, he’s a great one,” Boone said, without having to talk about an additional perk. Torres’ low-key demeanor makes it highly unlikely he’ll ever be a problem off the field.

Oh and there’s one more benefit to Torres’ stardom. If and when the Yankees are forced to cut ties with Gregorius, the heir is waiting. No need to wonder how this story will play out in 2020, though: Torres’ future in the Bronx is already here.

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