The New York Yankees have possibly made at least one of their prized shortstops dispensable and must consider a deal involving one of them.If you’re a right-minded New York Yankees‘ fan, you should understand how bright the future is for the renowned franchise.
Gary Sanchez gave a historic sneak peak, Greg Bird went on a 38-homer pace in his first impression, Aaron Judge displayed raw power (despite the strikeouts), and the clutch gene runs deep in the veins of Tyler Austin.
In addition, to what we saw in the Bronx, there are kids like James Kaprielian, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo, Miguel Andujar and more who are close to making a fine impression on the big league club.
All are highly praised and projected to go on to have modest major league careers, yet an arrangement needs to be made on two in particular: Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo.
When general manager Brian Cashman brought Torres in with a deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to the National League champion Chicago Cubs, he perhaps wanted to create a dominant duo or even move Mateo to second. Now we know he’s even taking reps in center.
However, with two budding shortstops and even another encouraging prospect in Tyler Wade at the same position, perhaps it’s time to consider a trade involving either Mateo or Torres. After all, the acquisition of Torres has certainly made one or the other dispensable.
In 2015, before Torres became the top shortstop prospect in the Yankees’ system, Mateo distinguished himself as “good as advertised” by slashing .321/.374/.452 with a .826 OPS in High-A Tampa including following a promotion from Charleston. Overall, he stole 82 bases in 117 games and even improved his batting average by 53 points.
2016 was a different story for the speedster. Even though he opened eyes in Spring Training with a long home run, he went just 4-for-17 (.235) and carried his struggles into the regular season.
In 113 games, Mateo struck out in 23% of his at-bats, slashed a mere .254/.306/.379 and only stole 36 bases. Worst of all, he complained of his non-promotion to Double-A and was tabbed with a suspension for irrational remarks towards a Yankees’ executive.
Gleyber Torres came into the picture this summer, and while his .254/.341/.385 slash line in 31 games in Tampa last year didn’t jump off the page, he is currently lighting up the Arizona Fall League.
Through seven games, the Yankees’ number two prospect owns a .391/.517/.739 slash line with two home runs and 17 total bases en route to winning the AFL Player of The Week award for Week 2.
No matter who had the “better” year, Torres is ranked as the 17th best prospect in baseball while Mateo is the 18th so both contain immense major league potential. So, why the heck should Cashman ponder a trade?
Easy answer: they are trapped by Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro.
Last season, Didi became just the third shortstop Yankees history to hit at least 20 HR and bat over .275 and his double play partner became the fourth Yankees’ second baseman in history to hit more than 20 homers.
Gregorius, barring any collapse in production, will likely be the shortstop for years to come. Castro is under team control until 2020 so they truly and rightfully aren’t going anywhere.
The bottom line here is New York has two outstanding prospects and shifting one to second base could be counterproductive with a capable major league second baseman already present. On the other hand, one could easily force themselves into the spotlight just like Addison Russel pushed Castro out of Chicago.
However, that still doesn’t mean both aren’t needed. Especially when they are so highly touted and can be packaged in a deal that can wheel in a superstar to help the Yankees win now without selling the farm.
If Cashman could play his cards right, there is a way to fit either Mateo or Torres in a deal with Brett Gardner, Rob Refsnyder (who the Yankees may have lost interest with) and maybe a promising pitching prospect (like Chad Green or Luis Cessa) to improve the team now.
Even if the Tigers aren’t their partners, you could bet a package highlighted by either Mateo or Torres would wheel in either a front-line starter or a middle-of-the-order power bat.
The best part is, a trade involving one of them won’t decimate the farm. You still have Frazier, Kaprielian, Sheffield, and even the top-20 shortstop you decide not to send away.
Is it a must? Absolutely not. But with manager Joe Girardi and Cashman entering the final years of their contracts, it would be in the Yankees’ GM’s best interest to sacrifice a moderately insignificant portion of the farm for a winning product in 2017.
Christian Kouroupakis covers the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball for ESNY. Interact with him and view his daily work by “liking” his facebook page and follow him on Twitter. All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Don’t hesitate to shoot him an email with any questions, criticisms, or concerns.