After a year and a half of hype, will Yankee fans get to see Gleyber Torres starting in the Bombers’ infield when the 2018 pinstriped campaign starts in Toronto on March 29?
Spring training breaks in Tampa next week, and barring any blockbuster acquisition in the next few days, Yankee general manager Brian Cashman said third and second base are up for grabs among the non-roster invitees and prospects like Torres.
“We’ve got a competition lined up to see where it takes us. Obviously, if anything changes between now and Opening Day, and makes enough sense, we’ll evaluate it,” Cashman told the Daily News on Friday.
Infielder Chase Headley is gone, and Toms River, New Jersey Little League legend Todd Frazier — who played at third for the Yankees for two months and the postseason last year — just signed a two-year deal with the crosstown Mets.
“I was thankful for the opportunity to have Todd play for us. He had a real positive impact on us. Obviously, free agency provides choices. He went through the process and made his choice. I thank him for the time he was with us and wish him the best with his new club,” said Cashman.
While the free-agent market continues at a glacial pace, the Yankees made an early winter detonation — acquiring National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton – but have been relatively quiet since. Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner have publicly stated their desire to stay under the $ 197 million payroll threshold. That means players like Jace Peterson and Danny Espinosa – who signed minor-league contracts with the Bombers — will compete alongside Torres, prospect Miguel Andujar and Ronald Torreyes for the Yankee infield vacancies. Torreyes played in a 108 games last season for the Yanks. Torres, 21, suffered a season-ending left (non-throwing) elbow injury last year sliding into home and he underwent Tommy John surgery. But Cashman said Torres is not only entering camp healthy, but that the club had to shut down Torres’ desire to play winter ball in his native Venezuela.
“(Torres) wanted to play a winter ball. We said ‘No.’ He was healthy enough to do so,” said Cashman. “He’s healthy right now. Could he blow a tire? Yeah, but that’s true of anybody else. Could he pull a groin, or hammy or calf? Yeah, but that’s going to be true of everyone in competition.”
The 22-year-old Andujar was called up in June last year, and played in five games for the team, including three at third. Espinosa, 30, played 157 games at short for the Nationals in 2016, and has played third and second during eight years in the majors. Peterson, 27, played 144 games at second for the 2015 Braves, and he has also manned the outfield during his four-year career.
Yankee reliever David Robertson said earlier this week that there is no reason “why we can’t win the World Series” in 2018, after coming within one game of advancing to the 2017 Fall Classic. “We’ve got a lot of talent,” said Robertson, who arrived last season in a trade with the White Sox. It is Robertson’s second stint in pinstripes.
Cashman, however, said that while the front office feels good about its roster on paper, “I’m wired to think we always need to improve somehow, some way.”
“I think a good team thinks, ‘You’re never good enough.’ We added a lot of players over the course of a season last year, (Tommy) Kahnle being one, David (Robertson), (Todd) Frazier, Sonny Gray, Jaime Garcia. You’re always looking for ways to improve,” said Cashman. “On paper going in you feel good about things. It’s a whole new year and we haven’t even had day one of workouts. We certainly haven’t played any exhibition games. We haven’t seen if anybody’s stuff is different, (velocity) is reduced. You do six weeks in Florida for a reason, to assess if people are in the same position, if they’re better or worse. Then you adjust accordingly.”