On Monday, the Yankees signed Danny Espinosa to a minor league deal. Earlier this month, they signed Jace Peterson. They have Tyler Wade hanging around, along with Ronald Torreyes. And oh yeah, some guy named Gleyber Torres. While it remains theoretically possible that the Yankees will bring in a second baseman off the free agent market or swing a trade, it certainly looks like the Yankees are gearing up for a good old fashioned Spring Training position battle.
Normally, Gleyber Torres would be the overwhelming favorite for the job. He is a top-5 prospect in baseball. He has Triple-A experience. He was in the middle of an elite breakout season when an elbow-first slide into second ended his age-20 season, hitting .287/.383/.480 in low-offense hitting environments. Unless something happens to Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres the Yankee second baseman of the future.
Of course, things aren’t so simple. If the Yankees promote him on Opening Day, he will become a free agent after his age-26 season. If they wait four weeks, he the Yankees will control his rights through his age-27 season. It’s not fair to Torres, but the Yankees have a strong financial incentive to keep him in the minors for at least a month. He also might need some additional seasoning given his shortened 2018 season and serious injury.
If not Gleyber Torres, then who?
The Good One: Tyler Wade
Major league players can exhaust their rookie eligibility in one of two ways. Almost all players (especially hitters) do so through playing time: 130 plate appearances or 50 innings pitched. However, players can also exhaust their eligibility by spending 45 days or more on a major league roster. Tyler Wade had only 63 plate appearances last year, but is no longer a rookie. The Yankees kept him on the active roster for much of the summer, but he never got into games. When he did, he hit just .155/.222/.224.
However, none of that is indicative of Tyler Wade’s 2017 season. Wade had his best season ever at Triple-A, hitting .310/.382/.460 with 26 stolen bases and a 19% strikeout rate in 85 games. After years of a consistent .700 OPS in the minor leagues, Wade finally started hitting for power, and finally started walking. He was also only 22 years old and can play at least five positions, including second base.
Tyler Wade is the future of the Yankee bench, and they could do worse than going with him at second base.
The Incumbent? Ronald Torreyes
Ronald Torreyes is a perfectly fine replacement player/fun team mascot. He hit .292/.314/.375 across 336 plate appearances in 2017, mostly filling in for Didi Gregorius. He can play plenty of positions adequately. He’s fine.
If the Yankees go with Torreyes at second base, they are throwing in the towel for a month. He won’t kill the team. He won’t help the team. The Steinbrenners will save some money. Yay.
The Very Bad Idea: Danny Espinosa
The Yankees have two perfectly fine options at second base, but neither are “veterans”. A veteran is a major league player who hasn’t persuaded 30 major league teams to stop giving him playing time. As hard as he’s tried, Danny Espinosa has not yet persuaded all 30 major league teams to stop giving him playing time. Espinosa has hit .213/.291/.362 over his last 1,672 plate appearances. He’s 31 years old, and not getting any better. Hopefully, he has a delightful season for the Triple-A Scranton Railriders and never sniffs Yankee Stadium.
Hopefully, the Yankees won’t fall for his veteraniness, but would anyone really be surprised if Espinosa bats .180 for the team for four weeks until Gleyber Torres is no longer a threat to reach free agency early?
Him? Jace Peterson
Jace Peterson is a career .234/.319/.331 hitter. He never delivered on his strong minor league OBP. He is Danny Espinosa without the long history of ineptitude. Why sign both he and Espinosa? Who knows.
(Photo credit: Kim Klement / USA Today)