By Chad Jennings
During these early days and weeks of the offseason, and it’s worth looking at a few players without clear roles heading into next season. Since we started today by looking at the possibility of staying in-house at second base, here’s a young second baseman who spent most of the year crowded out of a roster spot only to have the situation change so drastically that he was in the starting lineup for the wild card game. What should the Yankees do with him next year?
24 years old
Has options remaining, not yet arbitration eligible
This year: Spent most of the season in Triple-A where he made a bunch of errors early and his for a surprisingly low batting average late. In the middle he made a four-game cameo in the big leagues, but he didn’t get another real look in the Majors until late September when he quite suddenly became the team’s regular second baseman against lefties.
A few possibilities for next season:
1. Everyday second baseman in New York
Hard to think the Yankees would go into spring training planning to go this direction, but they might go into spring training believing this to be a possibility. See how Refsnyder does against both lefties and righties down in Tampa, and if he results are encouraging, give him the full-time job with Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan — or a Ryan-type backup shortstop — serving as true bench/utility players.
2. Platoon second baseman in New York
Basically the exact same role we saw at the end of this year with Refsnyder playing second base against lefties and Ackley playing second base against righties. It wouldn’t have to be a strict platoon role for Refsnyder, who could certainly get some turns against right-handed pitchers whenever Ackley is needed as either a backup first baseman or to give one of the outfielders a day off. The Yankees got very good offensive production out of this combination down the stretch.
3. Sent back to Triple-A
If the Yankees sign a guy like Ben Zobrist or make a trade for a guy like Martin Prado — both purely speculative scenarios — I have to think Refsnyder would return to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to wait for an opportunity. Given the age and lingering health concerns on this roster, there’s some logic in filling second base with someone who can play other spots if necessary, knowing Refsnyder could come up and handle second if/when the new second baseman has to play elsewhere.
4. Trade bait to upgrade at second base (or elsewhere)
Since last offseason, the Yankees seem to have been actively opening opportunities for young players. They didn’t trade away top prospects at the trade deadline. They acquired young players last winter. They looked internally to replace injured players during the season. If that’s going to remain the strategy going forward, then the Yankees already have an open window for Refsnyder to take his shot at second base. That said, if the job is this wide-open and they’re still not sold on Refsnyder, they might be better off — and Refsnyder might be better off — with a trade that sends Refsnyder elsewhere and gives the Yankees someone Joe Girardi will actually be comfortable using regularly.