New York Yankees And Gleyber Torres Demonstrate Prudence In Avoiding Arbitration

After a busy offseason spending $573.5 million on four noteworthy free agents, the New York Yankees agreed to one-year contracts with 11 ball players prior to the January 13th deadline for ball clubs and arbitration-eligible ball players to exchange salary figures. The contracts totaled $37.435 million in value according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. The only arbitration-eligible ball player who had yet to come to terms with the Yankees on a 2023 contract by the deadline was second baseman Gleyber Torres.

In his third year of arbitration-eligibility, the 26-year-old was seeking $10.2 million while the Yankees had offered $9.7 million. A difference of $500,000, it was not worth it for Torres to head to a potentially contentious arbitration hearing with the Yankees. Both sides demonstrated prudence and agreed to a one-year contract worth $9.95 million according to Mark Feinsand of

Torres has one more year of arbitration eligibility left due to his Super Two status. On two previous occasions, Torres avoided arbitration with the Yankees. He had agreed to a $4 million contract for the 2021 season and then a $6.25 million contract for the 2022 season according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. A middle infielder who made the full-time transition to second base at the outset of the 2022 season, Torres’ previous arbitration-eligibility years featured him as more of a shortstop. According to Baseball-Reference, Torres only appeared at second base in 19 ball games (169.1 innings) over the 2020-2021 seasons.

In a major league career that has spanned five seasons, Torres has experienced the joys of being named to two American League All Star teams before his age 23 season and adversity in the form of injuries and inconsistency as a byproduct of performing below expectations. Even with occasional concerns regarding a lack of hustle, Torres is still a tantalizing talent given his age, experience, and natural abilities. The Yankees must decide if he is in their long term plans as serious questions surround the future of the ball club’s infield due to the presence of highly regarded shortstop prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. By avoiding conflicts that could have arisen during an arbitration hearing, Torres is free to focus on improvement without distractions.

For over two decades, the Yankees have developed a reputation of avoiding arbitration hearings with their ball players. If they believe a salary request for an arbitration-eligible ball player is above market value for the position, a hearing to rectify the discrepancy is a logical course of action. Since 2000, the Yankees have gone to an arbitration hearing on three occasions and all with pitchers according to research conducted using the Associated Press.

In February 2000, Hall of Fame right-handed relief pitcher Mariano Rivera lost his arbitration hearing where he had requested $9.25 million and instead arbitrators ruled in favor of the Yankees for $7.25 million. Right-handed starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang lost his arbitration case in February 2008 where he had requested $4.6 million, but the Yankees prevailed at $4 million. In February 2017, right-handed relief pitcher Dellin Betances asked for $5 million but arbitrators ruled in favor of the Yankees at $3 million. Betances’ arbitration hearing made news due to what some believed were unnecessary comments made by the team’s president, Randy Levine, after victory was awarded to the Yankees.

According to FanGraphs, there were 10 second basemen who had played at least 1,000 innings at the position last season in Major League Baseball. Torres fared well among this group which included five ball players who were Gold Glove Award finalists in the American and National Leagues. While playing shortstop for the Yankees, he was subjected to intense scrutiny and criticism as evident in defensive runs saved (DRS) and ultimate zone rating (UZR). Over 915.2 innings at shortstop during the 2021 season, Torres posted a -10 DRS and -2.6 UZR. As a second baseman last season, Torres demonstrated significant defensive improvement thanks to a 9 DRS and 4.1 UZR over 1,082.2 innings.

Torres’ offensive approach during the 2022 season was predicated on isolated power (ISO). According to FanGraphs, he posted a .194 ISO, second only to Jose Altuve (.233) of the Houston Astros among the 19 qualified second basemen based on plate appearances. His 24 home runs were third best in the group and only trailed Altuve (28) and Marcus Semien (26) of the Texas Rangers. Torres posted a career high 28 doubles last season.

Areas of concern regarding Torres’ performance from last season involve the year-to-year decline in base on balls percentage (6.8 percent) and increase in strikeout percentage (22.6 percent). His 129 strikeouts tied a career high which was also achieved during the 2019 season. Based on data from Baseball-Reference, Torres is seeing less pitches per plate appearance as well. His 3.89 pitches per plate appearance was the lowest in his career as first pitch swing percentage skyrocketed from 28.5 percent in 2021 to 40.5 percent last season according to Baseball Savant.

The Yankees are predicated on power thanks to Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, and Giancarlo Stanton. Even though Torres was fourth on the ball club in terms of home runs last season, the Yankees would love to see improvement from him in statistics such as on-base percentage (.310), batting average on balls in play (.295), and extra bases taken percentage (44 percent). Torres has demonstrated that he can be a multi-talented ball player who excels in several Statcast metrics, but it is currently not evident in his on-base plus slugging (.761).

The New York Yankees and Gleyber Torres fortunately avoided a contentious arbitration hearing by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $9.95 million. Confidence, consistency, and maturity will be three important aspects that will define success for Torres during the 2023 season. While power will be a key factor in Torres’ approach to hitting, he also must be an offensive catalyst and disruptive force to opponents. Continued defensive improvement at second base will require Torres’ undivided attention and discipline as the presence of prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza in spring training will create an atmosphere of excitement and curiosity.