By Ernie Palladino
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Your name is Gleyber Torres. You’re 20 years old and just three days ago joined a major league waiting list at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre that’s as crowded as a supermarket checkout line on a Saturday afternoon.
It’s not exactly the top of the world, but you can see it from there.
Once you really get going at the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate, you will finish an education at second, third, and short so that once you do hit the majors, Joe Girardi will have some flexibility in getting you into the lineup.
Life is good.
A blink, and now you’re Chase Headley. Your life is not so great. At 33, with one more year to go on a five-year contract, you’re struggling as the Yankees’ regular third baseman. You’re the fourth oldest guy on roster rebuilt with youngsters, one of whom has already been awarded his own cheering section as a reward for his prodigious home runs.
Unlike Aaron Judge, whose 15 homers lead MLB, you have just three. A batting average that has dropped each season since you arrived in 2014 now sits at .236. You have five hits in the last 12 games.
All of this adds up to one thing. When the Yanks want Torres in a major league uniform, they’re going to have to move somebody. And that somebody is looking more and more like Headley.
Torres’ move up to Triple-A set them up for just such a maneuver.
The good news for Headley is that he still has time to make this a hard decision for general manager Brian Cashman. It won’t happen just yet, since Torres must prove he can hit higher-level pitching than he faced while fashioning a .273/.367/.496 slash line in 32 games in Double-A Trenton. Plus, there’s no rush to get him up here since the Yanks are winning and the stadium is humming, thanks in part to the just-opened Judge’s Chambers seating area in the right field bleachers.
But unless the Yanks crash and burn between now and the July trading deadline, the need to bolster the starting rotation or supplement the bench will increase. Since Cashman probably won’t be dangling top prospects like Torres or Clint Frazier, since he went through so much to get them from the Cubs and Indians in the Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller trades last year, he’ll probably send off a veteran.
That probably means Headley, at least at this point. Cashman can send him off easily enough and insert a player 13 years younger in his place and satisfy three goals in one move — strengthen the club, get younger, and exchange the $13 million they’d owe Headley next year for a minimal salary.
Getting somebody to bite at that last factor will be the trick, however. But even if the Yanks have to eat part of Headley’s money, they’ll still get off cheaper than keeping him.
Torres is a natural shortstop, but the idea of moving Didi Gregorius seems ridiculous at this point. And Torres would only be used to give Starlin Castro a rest at second, while Ronald Torreyes continues what has been a successful role as a utility backup.
The farm system has never been so packed. Frazier, the International League leader in doubles, could come up before Torres if Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Judge, or Aaron Hicks gets injured.
Dustin Fowler and Tyler Wade, prized picks in the same 2013 draft that yielded Judge, also await at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
But Torres is the real star; Numero Uno on the waiting list with a bullet.
His minor league career may last just a couple of months more. And it won’t be surprising if Headley’s time with the Yanks ends at the same time Torres’ begins.
The promotion to Triple-A set up the move. It’s up to Cashman to decide when to put it in motion.
Life may not be perfect yet if your name is Gleyber Torres. But it’s a lot better than if it’s Chase Headley right now.
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