Until the Seattle Mariners find their next second baseman, expect a constant drumbeat of rumors connecting the Mariners to free agents and players currently on other teams. The latest salvo of speculation involves Gleyber Torres of the New York Yankees.
In a New York Post article discussing the future of free agent outfielder Aaron Judge with the Yankees, Joel Sherman suggested in passing the Mariners have inquired about Torres’ availability. Perhaps Sherman’s comment is nothing more than a puff of smoke from the hot stove. But just in case there’s something to it, let’s assess Torres as a potential answer for Seattle’s need at second base.
Selling points: In 2022, Torres was significantly more productive compared to the combined effort of the five Mariners spending time at second basemen – Adam Frazier (460 plate appearances), Abraham Toro (161 PA) Dylan Moore (28 PA), Sam Haggerty (5 PA), Luis Torrens (4 PA). Not only that, Torres’ offensive numbers bettered league averages in most categories.
Torres makes loud contact. We recently noted the Mariners need more hitters with this core competency heading into next season. The two-time All-Star’s 45.3% hard-hit rate was second-best among 29 second basemen with at least 250 batted balls. Only Brendan Rodgers (45.9%) of the Colorado Rockies bettered Torres in this crucial metric.
A “hard-hit ball” has an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher. The “hard-hit rate” of a player or team represents the percentage of batted balls with a 95+mph exit velocity. In 2022, the average hard-hit rate was 38.4%. – Statcast
Torres’ 24 home runs were third among qualified second basemen behind Jose Altuve (28) of the Houston Astros and Marcus Semien (26) of the Texas Rangers. The right-handed hitter also ranked ninth in doubles and fourth in SLG amongst his positional peers.
Generating power didn’t lead to an excessive number of swings and misses by Torres. His 22.6% strikeout rate was essentially league-average – his career rate is 21.9%. If Torres were a member of the 2022 Mariners, his strikeout rate would’ve been better than Eugenio Suarez (31.2%), Cal Raleigh (29.4%), Dylan Moore (29.4%), Mitch Haniger (26.3%) and Julio Rodríguez (25.9%).
Defensively, Torres had a nice season. His 9 DRS was fifth best among 29 second basemen with at least 500 innings at the position.
Defensive runs saved (DRS) quantifies a player’s entire defensive performance by attempting to measure how many runs a defender saved. It takes into account errors, range, outfield arm and double-play ability. – MLB.com
A team acquiring Torres would have him though the 2024 season. The Venezuelan has two additional years of arbitration eligibility remaining with MLB Trade Rumors projecting a $9.8 million salary in 2023.
Torres is young and in his prime. Although he’s been a major-leaguer for five years, 2023 will only be his age-26 season.
Potential concerns: After two great seasons to kick off his career, Torres hasn’t lived up to Yankees fan expectations since. In 2018-19, he was a Rookie of the Year finalist and selected for two All-Star games. He’s been good-ish, but not great since.
The decline is readily apparent when we compare Torres’ production during his first two campaigns to his last three.
Something else to consider, playing in Yankee Stadium is a more advantageous for right-handed hitters than T-Mobile Park. Statcast park factors rank the ball yard in the Bronx as twelfth most favorable for righty bats, while Seattle’s home field ranks 29th. As for Torres, his splits from the past two seasons suggest his home run power is noticeably reduced on the road.
During his time with the Yankees, Torres has demonstrated a willingness to take a walk, which is reflected in a career 8.6% walk rate. But his walk rate dropped from 9.7% last year to 6.8% in 2022. He hasn’t exactly become allergic to free passes. But a three-percent decline in one year is certainly worthy of mention.
Although DRS suggests Torres had a good year in the field in 2022, his defense has been a touchy subject since he debuted in 2018. The five-year veteran has extensive experience at second base and shortstop. But at the latter, it’s been a disaster.
Shortstop – 2,063 innings (-24 DRS)
Second base – 2.715 innings (1 DRS)
So, how does a player with 9 DRS this year have a balance of 1 DRS after playing a position for 2,700-plus innings? Inconsistency may be the root cause.
Torres tallied 5 DRS as a rookie, but plummeted to -11 in his sophomore campaign. Throw in -2 DRS in 2021 and then 9 DRS this year and you end up with 1 DRS for a career.
Thoughts: Adding Torres would be an intriguing move. One with a chance of paying off for the Mariners – even if he never ascends to the heights reached during his first two MLB seasons.
Yes, it’s possible Torres’ home run power suffers if he were no longer wearing Yankee pinstripes. But let’s not overlook the fact he hits the ball hard. This ability typically leads to good offensive production in any ballpark, including pitcher-friendly T-Mobile Park. This especially rings true for a player like Torres, who doesn’t strikeout at a high rate.
Concerns about Torres’ defensive acumen are warranted. Then again, the Mariners organization has demonstrated a knack for helping infielders become the best version of themselves under the watchful eye of infield guru Perry Hill. The venerable coach isn’t a miracle worker. But Torres has delivered good results in the past, which suggests Hill can help bring out the best in him.
Finally: For the Mariners fan anxious about their favorite team swapping players with the Yankees, please accept one word advice.
Believe it or not, the Yankees don’t always fleece the Mariners in trades as some Seattle fans believe. That’s more perception than reality.
Besides, the Mariners look like an organization on the rise.
The Yankees do not.
My Oh My…
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