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Yankees GM Brian Cashman talks Gleyber Torres' position, DJ LeMahieu contract situation

Yankees GM Brian Cashman speaks with members of

Yankees GM Brian Cashman speaks with members of the press during spring training in Tampa on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Brian Cashman admitted to what seemed apparent this past season about Gleyber Torres:

"He’s more than capable of playing short, but I acknowledge he is a better second baseman than a shortstop," Cashman said during an interview with the YES Network that aired Thursday night.

Torres, a natural shortstop coming up through the minors, did not have a smooth transition back to that position in 2020. In addition to struggling at the plate, he committed a team-high nine errors in 40 games.

Torres, who will turn 24 on Sunday, hit .243 with a .724 OPS in 2020 after hitting .278 with an .871 OPS in 2019, and Cashman had his theories about the cause of his struggles.

"He wasn’t in the best shape to start the second spring training [on July 4]," he said. "On his return from the shutdown, we spent a little bit . . . first half of the season playing catch-up, maybe in the first 40 or 45 games of the season playing catch-up. Once we got him back online and in shape, we saw, toward the last 20 games, including the playoffs, the Gleyber Torres we’re used to seeing."

Where Torres will be seen next season remains a question, and that has a lot to do with DJ LeMahieu.

The Yankees’ offseason priority continues to be re-signing LeMahieu, who just completed the team-friendliest of contracts — two years, $24 million. But with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner determined to cut payroll before next season and plenty of other teams interested in the 32-year-old’s services, it is far from a certainty that the Yankees’ hands-down MVP from each of the last two seasons will be back — even though LeMahieu publicly has stated multiple times that he would prefer to return.

"We’ll just have to wait and see," Cashman said, adding that the two sides have talked and continue to talk. "He loves playing in New York, loves playing for the Yankees and [for] our fan base. There’s a lot of things in our favor, but ultimately it comes down to the financial opportunity that we provide as it’s measured to the financial opportunities others are providing. That’s the big unknown."

If LeMahieu were to return, that likely would mean Torres would return to shortstop. LeMahieu has shown himself to be more than capable at third base and first base but has won three Gold Gloves at second base in his career.

LeMahieu is not the only one of the Yankees’ own free agents they want back. They very much would like to re-sign Masahiro Tanaka, but the club could be shackled by financial restraints. If Tanaka goes elsewhere, that would leave the Yankees with Gerrit Cole followed by question marks.

Jordan Montgomery figures to slot in one spot. Luis Severino, coming off Tommy John surgery, will be part of the rotation at some point. Prospects Deivi Garcia, Michael King and Clarke Schmidt will get serious looks in spring training and Domingo German, eligible after serving an 81-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy, could be an option.

Yankees lose trio

The Yankees’ farm system took a bit of a hit in the major-league phase of Thursday’s Rule 5 draft as three prospects were selected by other teams in the first round.

The Red Sox took righthander Garrett Whitlock, the Phillies grabbed shortstop Kyle Holder and Cleveland picked righthander Trevor Stephan. Four more players departed in the Triple-A phase of the draft: The Rangers picked righty Matt Wivinis (first round), the Red Sox selected righty Kaleb Ort (second round), the Angels picked catcher Gustavo Campero (second round) and the Padres picked outfielder Ben Ruta (second round).

The Yankees did gain two players Thursday. They picked lefthander Matt Krook in the first round of the Triple-A phase from the pitching-rich Rays and righty Reggie McClain in the second round from the Phillies.

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