Cano, Torres and Why It’s Not Time to Panic Yet


Gleyber Torres's call up eerily mirrors Robinson Cano's (Courtesy of Twitter).

By Chris Lengua

Gleyber Torres’s call up eerily mirrors Robinson Cano’s (Courtesy of Twitter).

Note: This article was written on April 19. The Yankees have won four out of five games since its completion, and Gleyber Torres has been called up.

“It’s not what you want” was the go-to line for former New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi during his 10-year tenure in pinstripes, which saw the Bronx Bombers win one World Series title in 2009. Ironically, the phrase that became synonymous with Girardi could be used accurately to describe his successor, Aaron Boone’s, first 16 games as Yankees manager.

Through those 16 games, the team that many people thought would compete for a World Series has stumbled out of the gate and currently sits in third place in the AL East at 8-8. More concerning than the record, however, is how the team has looked on the field. The Yankees have made an alarming 17 errors thus far in 2018 and have also yet to reap the benefits of their major offseason acquisition, Giancarlo Stanton.

To go along with Stanton’s struggles and the poor defense, the Yankee bullpen, projected by many to be the premier bullpen in MLB, has stumbled out of the gate. In fact, the Yankees as a team sit at 24th in team ERA at 4.68.

Oh, and in case that was not enough, the division rival Red Sox are off to a scorching hot start and look like a team that could be a thorn in the Yankees side all year. So why am I still optimistic? Well for one, baseball, as the cliché goes, is “a marathon, not a sprint”. Even the best teams in baseball go through stretches where they struggle. Take the World Series runner up Los Angeles Dodgers last season. They began the year 10-12 and seemingly could not win a game in the middle of September but still managed to win over 100 games. Secondly, and more importantly, history is on the Yankees side. Since we’re using clichés, I’ll use another one: “the past shapes the future”. Lessons of the past can give Yankee fans hope that these early season struggles will, at some point, be a thing of the past.

Many Yankee fans are anxiously awaiting the call-up of top prospect Gleyber Torres, who was acquired by the club at the 2016 trade deadline for Aroldis Chapman, who they ended up resigning during the 2016 offseason. Torres, ranked sixth in Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list, has added to his hype train with a torrid start in AAA. Gleyber is hitting .372/.408/.558 through 12 games for the Scranton Wilkes Barre Rail Riders. Torres’ hot start, coupled with Brandon Drury’s DL stint due to his blurred vision and migraines and the lack of production from free agent acquisition Neil Walker and fellow prospect Tyler Wade, has opened opportunities for the 21-year-old.

What does this have to do with the Yankees’ past? Well, in 2005, the Yankees struggled mightily in April and began the season 11-15. On May 3, the Yankees called up a middle infield prospect in an attempt to light a spark under the team. His name? Robinson Cano. Cano, who may very well end up in Cooperstown one day, went on to hit .297 with 14 homers and 62 RBIs and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. The Yankees went 84-52 the rest of the way and won the AL east with 95 wins.
I am in no way insinuating that Gleyber Torres will be the player Robinson Cano is, however, it is certainly possible for Torres play in the majors during 2018 and make a significant impact. Also, Torres can provide a much-needed spark for an offense that has struggled to find an identity thus far in 2018, just like Cano did for the 2005 Yankees team.

Another point of contention for Yankee fans is the struggling bat of slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton, the 2017 National League Most Valuable Player, is fifth in MLB in strikeouts with 29 and is hitting .105 in Yankee Stadium. Despite the small sample size, fans have grown impatient with Stanton’s struggles and have showered him with boos numerous times in his new home stadium.

While the slow start is disheartening, especially since the Yankees owe Giancarlo 265 million dollars over the next 10 years, it is not particularly surprising. In fact, it almost could have been expected. Numerous Yankee free agent acquisitions including Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Tino Martinez struggled mightily in their first month in pinstripes. Teixeira, who was signed by the Yankees in the 2008 offseason, could not have gotten off to a worse start. On May 2nd, 2009, the first baseman was slashing .182/.354/.338 with three home runs and an OPS of .691.

The early season struggles of Teixeira, the biggest offensive acquisition for the 2009 Yankees, and Stanton, the biggest offensive acquisition for the 2018 Yankees, are not the only similarities between the 2009 and 2018 teams. In April of 2009, the Yankees lost three games by more than eight runs, including a 22-4 drubbing at the hands of the Cleveland Indians in the opening series of The New Yankee Stadium. The Indians were not exactly a juggernaut during the 2009 season either. In fact, they finished the season with a grand total of 65 wins. So, in April of 2009 the Yankees biggest offseason signee flopped and they lost to one of the worst teams in baseball in embarrassing fashion. Sound familiar?

We know how the story finished in 2009. Teixeira rebounded from his early season struggles to put up an MVP caliber season in which he hit 39 homers, drove in 122 runs and hit .292 with a .948 OPS. The Yankees, despite trailing the rival Red Sox by five games in late June, won 103 games and the American League East by eight games. Oh, and they won the World Series too.

The jury is still out on the 2018 New York Yankees. However, there is no need to panic just yet. It is not a stretch to say that Stanton, who has a career OPS of .911 and a 162-game average of 44 home runs per season, like Teixeira, will turn it around and come close to matching those numbers. It is also not a stretch to say that Gleyber Torres, like rookie Robinson Cano, could still have a significant impact on the 2018 season, especially if the production at second base and third base continues to be problematic.

Will the 2018 version of the Bronx Bombers be holding the trophy at the end of the season? Time will tell. But this team is most definitely going to get on a roll.
And when they do, it is going to be fun to watch.