|A familiar sight at Yankee Stadium: Gleyber Torres rounding third base on a home run. Photo by Jason Schott.|
Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres is putting together a Rookie of the Year campaign in 2018, proving to be the future star the Yankees thought he would be when they acquired him from the Cubs two years ago in the Aroldis Chapman trade.
When Torres joined the Yankees organization, he instantly became one of their top five prospects, and was their number-one prospect before being called up in April.
The Yankees called Torres up on April 22 when they were mired in a slow start and needed a spark.
Torres provided that spark and more, as he is hitting .296, the highest average on the Yankees, with 15 home runs and 42 RBI on the season.
Torres was named the American League Rookie of the Month in May.
The Yankees were 10-9 when Torres was called up, and have gone 46-19 since then to race to one of the best records in baseball at 56-28 through Wednesday's win against the Braves. Torres left Wednesday's game early, and was placed on the DL with a right hip strain after the game.
Torres' call up just a few weeks into the season was not a surprise considering how they praised his work ethic while he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery that ended his 2017 season prematurely.
If Torres did not suffer an elbow injury last June, he probably would have been called up in 2017, as he hit .287 with seven home runs and 34 RBI and had a superb .383 on-base percentage in 55 games at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
When Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman decided to rebuild the farm system at the 2016 trade deadline, Torres was on his radar.
Cashman knew the Cubs were desperate the get a closer to shore up their bullpen as they were seeking their first championship since 1908.
With Chapman in the final year of his contract, Cashman made the move.
Chapman delivered Chicago that elusive World Series title, and the Yankees ended up bringing him back that offseason when they signed him to a five-year deal.
The Cubs knew Torres was expendable because they had a very young, strong infield in place, led by 2015 Rookie of the Year and 2016 National League Most Valuable Player Kris Bryant at third base, Addison Russell at shortstop, Javier Baez at second, and Anthony Rizzo at first.
The Yankees not only wanted a top prospect for Chapman, but they knew that they needed a top infield prospect.
They had issues settling on a third baseman since Alex Rodriguez stopped playing the position in 2013. That was the last year before his suspension in 2014, and when he returned to the Yankees the following year, he was exclusively a designated hitter.
Over at second base, the Yankees had Starlin Castro, who was acquired from the Cubs the prior offseason, but they knew he was not a long-term solution there due to his inconsistent play on defense.
Two years later, Torres, along with another star rookie Miguel Andujar, are anchoring the Yankees infield, and Chapman has looked as dominant as ever this season, as he has racked up 24 saves.
The Cubs are 48-35 through Tuesday, and are once again one of the best teams in the National League. Brandon Morrow, who they signed in the offseason from the Dodgers, is their closer, and he has 18 saves this season.
Wade Davis replaced Chapman as the Cubs closer last season, and he signed with Colorado in the offseason.
While the Yankees deserve praise for bringing in Torres and then getting Chapman back, don't forget that the Cubs got what they wanted, something that eluded them for 108 years: a World Championship.