Dec. 12, 2013 was a sad day. That is the day the Mariners signed Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract. The Yankees’ best player had been lowballed by the only team he had ever known, the richest team in baseball, while the front office was spending the money that should have been used on Cano to sign Jacoby Ellsbury.
Since that day, the Yankees have used the following players at second base:
That’s 18 players, and a lot of bad players, that have played second base for the New York Yankees since Cano left. It’s been a long four-plus seasons.
But on Sunday that all changed. On Sunday, 21-year-old top prospect Gleyber Torres started at second base, nearly 13 years (May 3, 2005) since I was sitting in my freshman dorm room in Boston watching a 22-year-old Robinson Cano make his Major League debut for the Yankees on what was the earliest version of MLBTV (it was actually very good quality even for 13 years ago). Like Cano was with Tony Womack, Torres was also needed because of a production problem, and like Cano, Torres went hitless in his first game. Even without having that ball tossed into the dugout for Gene Monahan (then) or Steve Donahue (now) to place a piece of tape around and write down the first hit of a rookie’s career, there was a breath of fresh air knowing that the position was now stable.
I hate platoons and I hate constant lineup changes. I understand the need for a day off here and there and for a DH day here and there as well, but running out the same lineup and defensive alignment nearly every day (something the 2018 Yankees haven’t done at all), is the goal. The Yankees are close to that goal now, and once Greg Bird returns in a few weeks, they will have achieved (barring on any other injuries … knock on all the wood possible). Once Bird returns, the Yankees are looking at these nine players playing nearly every day:
C Gary Sanchez
1B Greg Bird
2B Gleyber Torres
3B Miguel Andujar
SS Didi Gregorius
LF Brett Gardner
CF Aaron Hicks
RF Aaron Judge
DH Giancarlo Stanton
That is a beautiful thing. Take a minute to just stare at that. OK, take a few minutes to stare at that.
Maybe Andujar cools off so much that Brandon Drury takes over for him, and Drury moves to second and Torres moves to third. Either way, the Yankees have a set nine players. This mean Ronald Torreyes can go back to his utility role, moving around the field to give players days off, Tyler Austin can spell Bird when needed (and knowing the way the Yankees baby their players returning from injury, it will be a lot) and Neil Walker can go to the bench and do whatever someone hitting .172/.232/.203 in 69 plate appearances does. I don’t want to say that Neil Walker is the new Chase Headley, but if his name weren’t Neil, I would definitely be saying that. His first name is the only thing keeping him from such ridicule.
Gleyber Torres cruised through the minors, playing just 370 games there before reaching the majors. And if it weren’t for the freak injury at home plate last season, he would have been a Yankee for the stretch run with Headley watching from the bench. (Instead, Todd Frazier was a Yankee for the stretch run and Headley watched from the bench, and that worked out too.) He’s a star in the making and whether his career unfolds at second, short or third, and whether that changes in a few weeks, for now, Torres gives the Yankees something they haven’t had since Game 161 of the 2013 season: stability at second base.