The Gleyber-Torres-as-savior narrative is over for a while. Postponed until 2018, at the earliest, because of the extended rehab required for Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow. During the interim, the now second-place Yankees have plenty of other things to worry about after a seventh straight loss, this time by the score of 8-3 to the Angels that ended their 30-day reign atop the AL East.
Whether or not Torres would have helped the Yankees during the second half of this season is a moot point. Despite all the speculation about him taking over at third base, Torres still was learning the position at Triple-A Scranton, and it’s not a like a call-up was imminent.
Back when everyone was fantasizing about a Torres promotion, it didn’t seem to be such a pressing concern for a Yankees’ team that was laughing at the prognosticators. Having him supplant a struggling Chase Headley felt like a bonus, not a key component for a potential playoff push. But with the Yankees in free-fall, returning home to the loudest boos of the season Tuesday night in the Bronx, what we initially thought were luxuries may be necessary for survival.
Tyler Clippard was the primary target of those boos, for another late-inning meltdown, but a few robust jeers also were directed at Chris Carter, who must be feeling uncomfortable in his miscast role as Yankees’ regular first baseman. As yet another orthopedic specialist tries to decipher the mystery of Greg Bird’s nagging ankle injury, the Yankees have been forced to rethink the position. Maybe bringing up Torres would have eventually nudged Joe Girardi to try Headley at first — if Brian Cashman was unable to pry a replacement from outside the organization. But we’ll never know.
Cashman told WFAN earlier Tuesday that the plan is to “keep running [Carter] out there and look for better days to come.” But that was before Carter booted Eric Young Jr.’s leadoff grounder in the second inning for a two-base error that led to a pair of unearned runs for the Angels. Carter also went 0-for-3 to drop him to .201 and then watched as Girardi sent up Austin Romine to pinch hit for him in the ninth.
Normally, Girardi goes to the mat to defend his players. A-Rod being the lone exception during his swan-song 2015. But he’s clearly run out of patience with Carter, and is growing frustrated with his lack of options at the position. After Tuesday’s loss, when asked if Carter’s first-base role was in jeopardy, Girardi didn’t even try to be supportive.
“That’s what we have,” the manager replied.
For Girardi, it was a damning statement, as if he were delivering a message to the front office to get someone else, ASAP. As onerous as the Carter conundrum appears to be, compare that to what the Yankees’ chief rival is going through with their embattled third baseman, Pablo Sandoval, who was put on the disabled list Tuesday with what the team described as an inner-ear infection.
Sandoval is owed roughly $50 million through 2019 but can’t get on the field because the Red Sox don’t trust his defense and have seen enough of his (meager) offense. The end game is likely to be the Panda’s release before too long, and the Yankees could be headed down that same road with Carter, who has less than $2 million remaining on his one-year deal.
Something has to give. The Yankees have used four starters at the position, and with Bird out, none of the other three (Carter, Matt Holliday, Rob Refsnyder) are reliable long-term solutions in that spot. Eventually, Cashman could be compelled to reach for Tyler Austin, who homered Tuesday night for Scranton, where he may eventually attract some attention. If the medical update on Bird is gloomy, the GM will have to kick the tires on some potential exterior candidates as we get closer to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Eric Hosmer stands out as a pending free agent, but with the Royals only 3 1⁄2 games out in the AL Central and just one back in the wild card, they’re not shaping up to be sellers.
Coming up with solutions may be harder than we thought.