Shortstop has been a position of concern for the New York Yankees over the last few seasons. After moving on from Didi Gregorius, the Yankees slid Gleyber Torres from second base to shortstop, which is his “natural” position. Torres struggled defensively while back at shortstop, and even his offensive numbers have severely dipped. He was an all-around much more productive player when at second base for the Yankees rather than shortstop.
The struggles on defense could be a result of pressing too hard and over thinking the responsibility. The added pressure defensively may very well have had a major effect on his bat, as just about every statistical category declined. Regardless of the reasoning, the Yankees finally moved Gleyber Torres back to second base and away from shortstop. It was a necessary move that may have been overdue, but it begs the question about what the Yankees plan is moving forward at shortstop, one of the most important positions in baseball.
Yankees Sticking With What They Have at Shortstop?
When the Yankees moved Gleyber Torres back to second base late in the 2021 Major League Baseball season, they shuffled their infield positioning accordingly. DJ LeMahieu moved off of second base and over to third base so that Gio Urshela could take over as the new shortstop. Urshela is an excellent defensive player and Gold Glove caliber third baseman when at his best, but had very little career experience at shortstop. LeMahieu has played some third base in his career but second base has always been his primary position.
The new defensive alignment for the Yankees late last season worked out well for them despite three players being outside of their normal positions. Urshela is more than capable of adjusting and making the full time transition with how good his glove is. He is an inconsistent player on offense but his defense has always been reliable. If the Yankees do stick with Urshela at shortstop for now, there is nothing really wrong with having a “defensive specialist” at the position.
Sticking with what they have would be more of a short term solution to the Yankees problem at shortstop. They have two highly-rated prospects, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, who both look very promising to one day take over as a starting shortstop at the major league level. The issue for right now is that the Yankees don’t appear to be quite ready to elevate either one of them just yet. Patience is key when developing young prospects so they will both almost definitely remain in the minors at least for the start of the 2022 MLB season.
The other route the Yankees could take in finding their solution at shortstop is bringing in someone new from outside of the organization. The free agent pool and the trade market are the two places that could be done. In particular, the 2021 MLB free agent class is loaded with top talent at shortstop. The potential issue to signing one of them is the high price tag. The Yankees are already paying a ton of money to Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton while also dealing with the pending contract dilemma surrounding Aaron Judge, which would be another massive salary on the books.
If the Yankees are planning to acquire an elite shortstop in free agency, they would almost definitely have to exceed the luxury tax limit. They have been unwilling to do so in recent years, but maybe their extended World Series drought will remove the spending limitations for general manager Brian Cashman. If he gets the green light to spend what’s necessary to acquire one of the available superstar shortstops, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager would be the two that jump out the most.
Correa is probably the best available free agent this offseason and one of the top shortstops in all of baseball. He would be a major upgrade to the Yankees on both offense and defense but he won’t come cheap. He will likely be looking to sign a similar, or bigger, contract that Francisco Lindor just received from the New York Mets. Seager seems to be a perfect stylistic fit for the Yankees if they do make a splash. He is a left-handed hitter whose power would benefit from the dimensions of Yankees Stadium, while adding reliable contact to the top part of the batting order.
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