Gleyber Torres, all the rage in his first two weeks with the Yankees, was on general manager Brian Cashman’s radar at 16. But the Venezuelan-born player signed with the Cubs as an international free agent.
Four years — and an astute Cashman deal later — Torres has hit the Bronx as the hottest new Yankee since . . . Miguel Andujar.
On Sunday, Torres slammed a game-winning three-run home run in the ninth inning to give the Yankees a three-game sweep of the Indians. He has a .327/.357/.500 slash line, two homers and 11 RBIs in 15 games.
“He was one of the guys we never lost track of,’’ Cashman said Monday from Yankee Stadium. “We felt he was the number one international player [in 2013], but he picked the Cubs essentially as the team that he wanted to sign with. We just kind of followed his career since. Any chance, which usually wouldn’t happen, that you have to get a second bite at the apple, we certainly took that opportunity when it presented itself.’’
That came in late July 2016 when the Yankees decided to become sellers at the non-waiver trade deadline despite being on the fringes of the wild-card race.
Closer Aroldis Chapman and top-tier reliever Andrew Miller were the coveted Yankees. Cashman listed the Dodgers, Indians, Nationals, Rangers, Giants, Marlins and Cubs as potential suitors. Only the Cubs had Torres.
Cubs GM Theo Epstein, Cashman said, “was unwilling to engage us, for the most part, on anyone of significance from their major-league side, so we went down deep for a high-ceiling prospect [Torres] that was further away as part of a package of players.’’
Torres, then 19 and playing Class A ball, became the centerpiece of the deal for Chapman. The Yankees also got pitcher Adam Warren and minor-league outfielders Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford.
Cashman said managing partner Hal Steinbrenner needed time to contemplate the deal. “We had a deal agreed pending my ownership approval,’’ Cashman said. “So that whole weekend,’’ leading up to the trade deadline, “I was waiting for Hal Steinbrenner to approve it. He took, like he would with every difficult decision, a lot of time and discussions with his family.’’
Steinbrenner signed off on the deal. There was no expectation that Chapman would return, which he did as a free agent after helping the Cubs win the 2016 World Series. “Was part of the equation let me trade him now and sign him back later?’’ Cashman said. “That wasn’t part of the discussion, no.’’
Though it cost the Yankees $86 million over five years to sign Chapman, the net result was that they got Torres, perhaps a future All-Star, and later reclaimed their closer.
If one of Cashman’s best trades was the three-team deal in which he acquired Didi Gregorius for Shane Greene, the acquisition of Torres easily could become its equal.
Cashman said, “Ultimately, all we try to do is try to acquire as much talent through the draft, international signings, through trades, through free agency, and hopefully it comes together on a 25-man roster at the major-league level at some point to lead us to a championship. The only thing that matters is delivering a championship again into the trophy case. Obviously, that’s what we’re working towards.’’