Gleyber Torres sets 'Yankee for life' goal before free agency

TAMPA, Fla. -- Starting what could be his final season with the New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres was clear about his intent.

"I don't want to leave," the 27-year-old infielder said Wednesday. "I want to be a Yankee for life."

Torres was an All-Star in his first two seasons with the Yankees in 2018 and 2019, slumped badly for two years, and has rebounded to become a productive if not spectacular player. He hit .273 with 25 home runs, 68 RBIs and 13 stolen bases last season with an .800 OPS.

Torres has a one-year, $14.2 million contract and is eligible for free agency after the World Series. There have not been any discussions about a long-term deal, and he understands why the team might be reluctant after two notable players who underperformed: Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks.

Severino reached a deal in February 2019 that paid him $52.25 million for five seasons, then made just 40 starts and five relief appearances while going 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA. Hicks agreed that same month to a seven-year, $70 million contract for 2019 to 2025, then had repeated injuries and hit .218 with 31 home runs and 145 RBIs in 303 games before he was released in May.

"We know what's happened in the past, and I don't blame them. That's the business," Torres said. "So if I [have] a really good year and put [up] really good numbers, I think we can get a conversation, for sure."

Torres doesn't dwell on the uncertainty, busy with on-field work during the day and spending time with son Ethan, who turns 2 next month.

"I can't lie," Torres said. "I just think sometimes maybe that I'm starting my last year here because I don't know what's the business plan next year. But, man, it's just like, motivate myself. Like I always say, we play for another team sometimes, and it's a business."

Torres knows this is a key year for the Yankees because of the number of players who can become free agents; he is joined by outfielders Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo, reliever Clay Holmes, and right-hander Jonathan Loáisiga.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone called looming free agency a "pretty big carrot out there" for Torres.

"I think he's highly motivated," Boone said. "I think we saw a more mature approach last year that lends itself to more consistency at the plate. Now it's about putting it all together."

Torres doesn't want to negotiate during the season but hopes the Yankees will consider a long-term deal at some point. He cited Aaron Judge, who became a free agent after his record-setting 2022 season and agreed to a nine-year, $360 million deal.

Obtained in the 2016 trade with the Chicago Cubs for closer Aroldis Chapman, Torres has a .267 career average with 123 home runs, 378 RBIs and 49 steals.

He was among the players who arrived early Wednesday and were in their pinstriped home uniforms for photo day, a reminder of the Yankees tradition Torres wants to remain a part of. Torres has heard repeated talk of a possible departure but has gotten used to it.

"Every year is something, trade rumors and things like that," he said.