The Yankees upgraded significantly at the trade deadline, but they left one of their more polarizing positions unaddressed.
Gleyber Torres — not Trevor Story or Trea Turner — is their shortstop.
The Yankees brought in the big lefty bats of Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo, added Andrew Heaney to their rotation and acquired Joely Rodriguez for their bullpen. But general manager Brian Cashman and company hope Torres’ improvements both defensively and offensively will continue, so they would not regret not pushing harder, especially for Story, whom the Rockies did not deal.
Torres, a better second baseman, has been improving of late at short, including a dazzling slide-and-flip play Friday that got the Yankees out of an inning. Manager Aaron Boone pointed to the highlight and to Torres’ rough opening weekend of the season, which set the tone and amplified the ensuing errors.
In all, Boone said, his shortstop has been “really good.” That is clearly debatable, but he has a stronger argument now.
“I think if you look at the body of work that he’s put out there, he’s been very steady,” Boone said before the Yankees played the Marlins at loanDepot Park on Saturday. “I think he’s gotten better and better as the season has unfolded.”
Boone’s eye test is more encouraging than the analytics.
Though defensive advanced numbers are often suspect, Statcast’s outs above average has Torres as the 31st best shortstop in baseball thus far. Entering play, Torres’ 13 errors at shortstop tied him for the fourth most at the position in the game.
He had made just one error, however, since July 4 and has played a more solid defensive game of late. And his bat coming alive enabled the Yankees to leave him alone in the field and move him up in the order. He hit leadoff the past two days.
He still is not hitting with the same power he has shown in the past — he slammed 62 homers in his first two, All-Star seasons, but had six in his 90 games this campaign. His July, however, was far better than his April, May and June.
In his past 12 games, he had a slash line of .302/.367/.581 with three homers, and Boone thinks the July series in Houston was a turning point.
“Once he got through that tough stretch [in June] where he struggled a little bit, I feel like his at-bats have been very good; feel like he’s getting into some strong positions to impact the ball,” Boone said of Torres, who had been in such a funk there was speculation he might be optioned. “He’s obviously hit a few home runs since the All-Star break. Coming out the second half, feel like he’s getting on time better and getting off a lot of good swings.”
Story remains with the Rockies, Turner now is with the Dodgers, and the Yankees’ first baseman is now Rizzo, who brings four Gold Gloves and the ability to turn errors into outs. Maybe that can help, too.
But the Yankees hope their improvement at shortstop has happened more naturally.