If I Were the GM: Looking Ahead to 2020 – Second Base and Shortstop
It seems that I am starting this series a bit earlier than my similar series last year where I laid out my plans for the 2019 Yankees. Like last year, I will begin at second base and shortstop because I believe that these two positions are so entwined.
My feelings on the position are very similar to last year’s as well…
Last year I wrote the following:
I believe my plan for shortstop (and second base) is one that will help the Yankees in both the long and short term. This plan will make the Yankees a better team in 2019. It will also help keep a strong up-the-middle dynamic in place for the Yankees in spite of the fact that they really cannot count of Didi Gregorius in 2019 following his Tommy John surgery. I think the plan is balanced, it is smart, it sets and maintains a strong foundation up-the-middle, and it will help lead to sustained success.
The problem is that, in my heart, I don’t like the plan. Logic, to me says that this is a great plan. My heart tells me otherwise.
I’ll cut right to the chase, my plan does not include Didi Gregorius in 2019…or beyond. In order to make my plan a reality. Didi’s days in New York would be, for all intents and purposes, over.
And this makes me sad because Didi Gregorius is one of my favorite Yankees.
Before the news came out that Didi was injured and needed major surgery, I was in favor of giving him a contract extension and having him as the Yankees shortstop for the next five years, absolutely. Unfortunately, the injury changes everything. Radically.
Sadly, I feel the same way as the Yankees prepare for 2020. It’s time to let Didi Gregorius go. He is a free agent and the Yankees should let him walk.
Gregorius was a fantastic Yankee. I loved his energy. I loved his passion. I loved his Tweets. I love how he always started his Tweets with the words “Start Spreading the News.” (How could I not love that?)
Unfortunately, coming off a disappointing 2019 season, and with some very good prospects for replacing him on hand, Didi Gregorius is not the best player to be the Yankees starting shortstop in 2020. If money were not an issue, it might make sense for the Yankees to bring back Gregorius, but since the Yankees are very cost conscious, the money saved by not re-signing Gregorius can be better spent somewhere else. In my plan, the Yankees do not have to add any payroll to man these two critical positions.
(I don’t believe, for a minute, that Francisco Lindor is available. If he is available, the Yankees should open the trade vault to get him. But, he’s staying put in Cleveland. The Indians would be absolutely crazy to let Lindor go. Absolutely crazy. It’s so crazy that it’s not happening.)
The best player to start at shortstop for the 2020 Yankees (and for many years to come) is Gleyber Torres. It’s time for Torres to ascend to his rightful position. Torres is a star, a future star, and a leader. His natural position is shortstop. It is time he played there. He isn’t Didi Gregorius with the glove, but maybe one day he could be close and he’s probably more close right now than people give him credit for. . I think that the difference defensively between the 23-year old Torres and the 31-year old post-surgery Gregorius is closer than most people would assume. What is absolutely certain is that as Didi ages past his prime years, he’ll slow down. Torres has a number of years before he’s even in his prime. There is only upside for Torres over the next three years. Gregorius doesn’t have that upside. All of this is, of course, even more true when one compares the offense prowess of these two players. Right now Torres is a better hitter than Gregorius. And Torres is only going to get better.
All of that to say, the shortstop in 2020 should be Gleyber Torres. Put him there and let him shine. No shuffling. No moving. He’s a shortstop, let him be, finally, the Yankees shortstop for the next ten years (at least).
This then begs the question, who plays second base? That answer there is also an easy one. The Yankees have a great second baseman already on their roster. His name is D.J. LeMahieu. I know, I hear the comments already…
D.J. LeMahieu proved to be a great and very valuable utility piece in 2019. The man could, and did, play everywhere. He had a great 2019. Sometimes as we predict how players will do, we take it for granted that they’ll perform as they did in the current season, or better, the next year. Sometimes players regress. Actually, that statement should say, often times players regress. Along with that, it is virtually a given that players coming off career years almost certainly regress. I’m not saying that LeMahieu won’t be good in 2020. He’ll be excellent. He is an excellent player. He will have an excellent year. I don’t think, though, that he’ll have a year quite like 2019 ever again. A year like LeMahieu’s 2019 isn’t easy, or often replicated. He’ll be very good in 2020, but not great. A year from now no one will be asking if he’ll be in the running for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, but, if LeMahieu hits north of .285 with 20+ homers again, the Yankees would be thrilled. And he can certainly do that. I’m sure he will.
I believe that having one steady position for LeMahieu would actually benefit him. I think the stability would be good for him. Just as importantly, I can think of no better defensive mentor for Gleyber Torres to work with as his up-the-middle partner than D.J. LeMahieu. LeMahieu’s consistency will be comforting to Torres and it will help allow him to blossom as a shortstop in his own right.
In my plan for the 2020 Yankees, Thairo Estrada becomes the back-up shortstop if Gleyber Torres goes down. On my roster though, Estrada spends most of the 2020 season at Triple-A. I hate to do that to him because I think he’s Major League ready. Still, I’m trying to use the resources I have to build a World Championship team.
If the everyday lineup has Gleyber Torres at shortstop and D.J. LeMahieu at second base, the big question becomes, who will the super utility guy be?
I’ll get to that and reveal the answer in my next segment of this feature. I’ll say this. It’s not Tyler Wade. If I were the General Manager, I’d trade Wade to a team that can use him more regularly. It’s time for Wade to get his chance. I’ll also say this, the super sub is already on the roster. I’ll reveal who that is in the next segment.
My 2020 Yankees as reported thus far:
MGR – Aaron Boone
PITCHING COACH – Dave Righetti
2B – D.J. LeMahieu
SS – Gleyber Torres