Conor Liguori, Staff Writer, WORLD BASEBALL NETWORK
New York Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres homered in his debut for Leones de Caracas in his Venezuelan Professional Baseball League November 30, as rumors continue to swirl that he may be traded out of the Bronx.
Earlier in the month, the Yankees had tried to stop Torres from playing winter ball, but a few days later, Torres was posing for a picture in Caracas with Astros second baseman Jose Altuve after participating in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League’s home run derby.
A Caracas native, Torres is playing for Leones del Caracas, a team that also features former Detroit Tiger utility man Harold Castro. After a bounce-back season in pinstripes in 2022, playing for Leones del Caracas gives Torres a chance to see live pitching during the off-season. Not only will he get more swings in the batter’s box, he can take more reps at second base, a position where he has fared better than shortstop in the major leagues.
Torres’ VPBL debut came on November 30 against Cardenales de Lara. Playing second base and hitting third in the lineup, he went 1-for-4 with a home run off minor league journeyman Geoff Broussard. Torres took a 1-1 curveball and smacked it to deep left field, showing off his power to the left side. However, it was not enough to defeat the visiting team.
Since Torres made his major league debut with the Yankees in 2018, he has had somewhat of a rollercoaster ride. His season statistics in the first few years impressed many. In 2019, Torres hit 38 home runs, drove in 90 runs, and had an .871 OPS. In the 60-game Covid shortened 2020 season, he hit three home runs, and his OPS dropped to .724, which is near the major league league average.
There were very limited resources for players during the 2019-20 offseason, as Covid-19 restrictions limited them from leaving their house and working out, which led to speculation that Torres arrived for the season out of shape. In the VPBL, Torres has the opportunity to showcase his work ethic to the Yankees while playing for Leones del Caracas. Whether that will help or hurt his chances to stay with New York is up in the air.
As the 2022 trade deadline approached, there were rumors that Torres would be dealt to the Miami Marlins for starting pitcher Pablo Lopez, but Yankee’s general manager Brian Cashman pulled the plug, according to New York Post columnist Jon Heyman. Torres finished the year with New York, and in November, New York Post columnist Joel Sherman reported that the Seattle Mariners had interest in the middle infielder.
But once again, the offseason has raised questions about the second baseman’s future with the team, despite Torres’ being Yankees property through the end of the 2024 season. If Torres continues to impress with the bat in Venezuela this winter, perhaps other general managers across the MLB will take notice.