Gleyber Torres could be the reason the Yankees let D.J. Lemahieu leave in free agency

Gleyber Torres’ defensive issues are becoming a big issue for the Yankees. In the end, they could cost New York the services of D.J. LeMahieu.

The Yankees moved Gleyber Torres back to shortstop this season with the hopes that he could develop into a quality defender. Instead, he’s played like the worst defensive shortstop in baseball. His inability to defend the infield’s most important position could become a big problem for the Yankees when the offseason arrives.

Defense has never been Torres’ strong suit, but Yankees officials hoped for his athleticism to translate better to his glovework in 2020. The reality is that Torres leads American League shortstops with six errors this season. His six errors have put undue stress on a pitching staff that’s already been beset by injuries.

Torres’ inability to handle short presents Brian Cashman and his front office with a serious roster-building challenge. The easy solution would be to move Torres back to second base where his issues throwing the ball are minimized. The problem with that move is that it would force one of the team’s top hitters, D.J. LeMahieu, to play somewhere else on the diamond.

LeMahieu has the versatility to play gold glove defense at both second and first. The problem with getting him regular at-bats at first is that it would cause the Yankees to put Luke Voit on the bench. Voit currently leads the league in home runs. He’s one of the first names on Aaron Boone’s lineup card and he can’t play credible defense anywhere other than first.

It’s easy to construct a scenario where the Yankees have to choose between Torres and LeMahieu as their second baseman of the present and future. LeMahieu is arguably the superior player at the moment, but he’s also set to hit free agency this offseason. His stellar play with the Yankees is going to embolden he and his representatives to look for a really big deal on the open market.

Cashman might decide that letting someone else pay LeMahieu big money is the prudent course forward for the franchise. The Yankees aren’t going to let a 23-year-old hitter who’s already proven he can hit 38 home runs in a single season leave. As good as LeMahieu’s been in his brief tenure with the team, Torres is the more valuable long-term asset.

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The most likely outcome here is that the Yankees get creative to keep both Torres and LeMahieu for the long haul. Torres’ defensive issues do increase the chances of LeMahieu leaving in free agency though. It’s a critical issue for Yankees fans to watch moving forward.

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