The Yankees should consider acquiring Trevor Story in exchange for Gleyber Torres.
Baseball teams usually wait until after Memorial Day to make their first comprehensive evaluation of their situation. This enables companies to avoid making rash, overreactive decisions based on a limited sample size.
Clubs typically avoid major trades until near the July 31 non-waiver deadline, as time allows for the differentiation of pretenders and contenders and deadlines cause posturing to cease.
However, I believe the Yankees should contact the Rockies today and make an offer for Gleyber Torres in exchange for Trevor Story, as Torres’ defensive shortcomings at shortstop are not a one-off.
Do I believe the Yankees will follow through on this? Not at all. They’ve become more pragmatic over the years and will not trade a young 24-year-old who will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season for a player in his walk year. Not when they can wait until the offseason and acquire Story or, more likely, Corey Seager, who would not only fix their shortstop dilemma, but would also have a much-needed high-end lefty bat.
This will have no impact on the Yankees until the 2022 season. They are win-now and must determine whether they will win a championship with Torres at shortstop in 2021. Story is an excellent defender, a faster runner than Torres, and a likely better hitter as well. DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado, both of whom played for the Cardinals in their early years, have shown that a good hitter is a good hitter regardless of the altitude of Coors Field.
Let me demonstrate this point with two Theo Epstein moves during championship years.
In 2004, Epstein, the Red Sox’s general manager at the time, was concerned about defense, overall athleticism, and the possibility that his close-but-no-title team was becoming stale (three current Yankees worries, too). As a result, he traded Nomar Garciaparra, the franchise’s face, as part of a four-team deal that took shortstop Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz to Boston. On the same day, the Red Sox made a smaller offer for Dave Roberts to fix athletics. Epstein said on the day of the trade, “We were not going to win with this defense.”
The Boston team would go on to break The Curse, winning the league’s first championship since 1918.
Epstein traded four bits, most notably Torres, to the Yankees in 2016 when running the Cubs’ baseball department. Chapman, like Story now, was in his walk year. Epstein famously said in reference to the alleged overpayment, “If not now, when?” Since 1908, the Cubs had not dominated the World Series. Epstein believed that would remain the case until the endgame was resolved. The Cubs did indeed win the World Series that year.
Although 2009 is not 1908 or 1918, it has been a long time since the Yankees won a title in Yankees years. Therefore, if not now, when? Do the Yankees want to extend Gerrit Cole’s arm another year without giving him the best opportunity to win? Allow LeMahieu to regress further into his mid-30s?
The Yankees’ defense is abysmal in general. Orlando Arcia and Rougned Odor were traded on the same day last week. The Yankees acquired Odor — who, in addition to being a lefty, exacerbates their issues offensively by being all-or-nothing and mediocre defensively. Arcia would have been a better late-game defensive choice to replace Torres, particularly given Tyler Wade’s defensive game, like Torres’, has regressed significantly this season.
A Story trade will be the Yankees’ version of Chapman. When they acquired Torres, he was a highly touted prospect with seven years of service time if exploited. As a proven player, he now has this year plus three additional control years.
I presented this idea to four executives from organizations other than the Yankees/Rockies. It was adored by one. The Yankees were giving up too much for a few months of Story in the other three reported control years.
Thus, some reflections. The Yankees wish to remain below the luxury-tax threshold, and taking on the entirety of Story’s contract will do so. Thus, in order to obtain the three additional years of Torres’ leverage over Story following 2021, Colorado will have to pay the difference between the $18.5 million remaining on Story’s $18.5 million pact this year and Torres’ $4 million.
Alternatively, the contract will need to be extended. Might the Yankees complement Torres with prospects (Deivi Garcia?) and also acquire Rockies ace German Marquez (controlled through 2024)?
Or, as was the case with the Garciaparra exchange, should additional teams be included to facilitate a transaction? For example, the Marlins need young bats to complement their high-end young pitching. May Torres go there in exchange for Pablo Lopez and prospects, with the Yankees holding Lopez in their rotation but sending the prospects and a few of their younger players to the Rockies in exchange for Story?
When the Rockies first attempted to trade Arenado, they demanded major league-ready bits in exchange for Austin Gomber and prospects. As a result, Colorado has the potential to go either direction. However, none of the four executives could see the Rockies doing better than Torres, or the opportunities Torres could offer, in Story’s walk year.
Story, especially in light of the negative outcome with Arenado in Colorado, does not appear to be interested in a long-term relationship with the Rockies. As a result, they must either trade him or receive only draft pick compensation if Story leaves free agency. According to industry reports, the Rangers will make a strong effort next offseason to sign Story, who was born just outside Dallas.
However, the Yankees will observe the marriage and determine whether to bid to hold him. They will have plenty of information on Story thanks to LeMahieu, who is friends with Story and served as his double-play partner in Colorado for three years. The Yankees anticipated using their next large deal to re-sign either Judge or Torres. However, Judge’s latest injury early this season adds to the evidence that he is potentially too dangerous for a long-term contract — all the more so given that he cannot become a free agent until after his age-30 season.
Torres’ more capable spot, second base, is now blocked by LeMahieu’s six-year contract. LeMahieu could move to first, but Brian Cashman has suggested that the importance of LeMahieu’s trade is in keeping him at second — plus, the team wants Luke Voit’s bat at first.
By keeping Torres at short, the Yankees will continue to insert the round piece into the square hole. They should wait until the offseason and then simply purchase a shortstop. However, this organization’s sense of urgency should be increased. Epstein had it twice, in 2004 and 2016, and was both times praised.
How, if not now?