The Cubs got exactly what they wanted and ultimately had to have from the deal that cost them Gleyber Torres — the franchise’s first World Series win since 1908 to end a historic title-less drought.
But underlying it all was knowing they had paid a steep price.
The Cubs got Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees at the 2016 trade deadline, giving Chicago the lockdown closer it needed to complete its team.
The Yankees, as the centerpiece of the deal, received a 19-year-old Torres, almost universally at the time acknowledged as the sport’s top prospect.
And a little more than a week after celebrating the 2016 title won in an epic seventh game at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, a game in which Chapman blew the save but earned the win, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer openly discussed in an interview with Newsday that cost.
“The phrase we kind of used over and over was, ‘If not now, when?’ ” Hoyer said one afternoon in Scottsdale, Arizona “There was consensus in the room [before the deadline] that this is the spot we need to improve. And so you never want to give up a player like Torres, but at the same time, we felt this was a unique opportunity for us to win the World Series, and we know we don’t win the World Series without Chapman. But we also know that Gleyber’s going to be a really, really good player.”
Hoyer, while making clear there obviously were no regrets, added later: “This guy’s going to play in the big leagues and play at a high level for a long time. At some level, that’s the cost of doing business.”
Torres, a shortstop with rare power signed by Chicago out of Venezuela at the age of 16 for $1.7 million in July 2013, has blossomed pretty much into the player Hoyer and the Cubs predicted.
That growth continued during the just-completed ALDS sweep of the Twins in which Torres, now 22 as you may have read a few times, went 5-for-12 with a homer, three doubles and four RBIs, helping the second baseman produce a 1.378 OPS and more head-shaking from those sharing his dugout.
“Man, they’re going to be telling stories about that kid for a while,” Aaron Judge said. “He’s going to be a Yankee great, I know it. He just comes to work every single day. He’s always got a smile on his face. No situation is too big. I’ll see him in the box, bases loaded, big situation and he’ll give us a little smile in the dugout like he knows he’s going to go up there and do his job. Just a special individual.”
Torres finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting last season, hitting .271 with 24 homers and 77 RBIs and an .820 OPS in 123 games. Not satisfied with that, and disappointed that he missed nearly a month with a strained right hip, Torres made conditioning one of his offseason priorities, along with improving as many facets of his game as possible.
That resulted in him this season hitting .278 with 38 homers, 90 RBIs and an .871 OPS in 144 games.
Torres’ all-around play was on full display in the Game 3 clincher. He gave the Yankees the lead for good with a second-inning homer, then made the defensive play of the game in the fifth, saving a run with two on and two outs when he went to his knees to make a sliding stop in short rightfield on Eddie Rosario's ground bullet. Torres also doubled twice and stole a base.
Though carrying himself with supreme confidence, Torres lets the accolades come from elsewhere.
“Most important to me is help my team,” he said. “I feel happy I do my job, it's most important. We won tonight and that is the most important for us.”
Aaron Boone didn’t let it rest quite there.
“Gosh, he played so well in this series, and then today, I think, just continued to show the world just how good a player he is on both sides of the ball,” the second-year Yankees manager said. “I mean, big defensive plays, extra base hits, stole a base that helped lead to a nice insurance run. But that [homer] definitely, I think, at least offensively, gave us a little jolt there early and maybe settled the crowd a little bit as they were ready to explode. So what more can you say about Gleyber? He's been great.”