The minor trade that brought Ronald Torreyes to the Yankees a few weeks ago didn't make many waves, and the follow-up DFA'ing of Torreyes to clear a roster spot for Lane Adams made even fewer. But in the wake of yesterday's crushing news on Greg Bird's season-ending labrum tear, the Yankees reacquired Torreyes from the Angels and sent Adams packing, shedding some light on their plan to cover for the loss of Bird as Mark Teixeira's primary backup at first base.
The primary part of that plan sounds like it's going to be Dustin Ackley. Cash was quick to tell reporters that the team would not seek to replace Bird through the MLB free agent or trade markets and that Ackley would be assuming primary backup first base duties. Ackley has some recent experience there and he was picked up and retained primarily because of his positional flexibility, so the move makes sense for a team that has already established itself as one not looking to spend money on free agents. With Brian McCann in the fold and in need of more rest at catcher, the Yankees appear to be prepared to cover for the loss of Bird at the 25 and 40-man roster level. This of course assumes that Teix stays healthy.
So where does Torreyes factor in? With Ackley shifting over to first and the rest of the infield already light on backup depth, he could fit perfectly as the do-all utility infielder role that the team essentially gave up when it traded Brendan Ryan. That's basically what I wrote about Torreyes when the first trade was made:
"Call me crazy, but I think we might be looking at the final member of the Opening Day bench in Torreyes. He profiles as almost exactly what Brendan Ryan would have been for this team if he were still around, and I could see him easily outperforming Ryan in that role."
In my mind I could see Torreyes taking over Ackley's responsibility as primary backup to Starlin Castro at second, becoming emergency depth at shortstop behind Castro and Didi, and providing some much needed backup depth to Chase Headley at third. That has to be a better plan than just saying Castro is the automatic backup for every position on the left side of the infield, no? Torreyes could even fake it in an outfield corner if needed, and at the age of 23 with a high-contact offensive profile, there's reason to hope that he could provide something resembling average value at the plate.
Now that's not to say that Torreyes is going to be a difference maker with the bat, because he's not going to be. But how many last guys on any MLB bench really are? The Yankees clearly saw something in Torreyes when they first acquired him and they clearly recognized the value he brings in terms of fitting their needs when they scooped him back up yesterday. He's young, he's flexible, and he's cheap. He checks a lot of boxes.
Assuming he doesn't get dumped again, Torreyes could come into spring camp with a great chance to make the Yankees' Opening Day roster and he should get a long look from Joe and the rest of the coaching staff. If he can impress them with his performance, he could carve out a meaningful role for himself and break through the Triple-A/MLB barrier for good. We've seen guys like Yangervis Solarte do it before and there's some Solarte-like qualities in Torreyes. It sucks that Bird had to get hurt to create this opportunity for him, but it is a golden opportunity for Torreyes and an option for the Yankees to shore up the back end of their Major League roster.