The New York Yankees are not only in the right to field offers for Rob Refsnyder, but it just makes sense for them to deal the utility man.
The former top prospect, who was named New York’s eighth-best by the 2016 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, was once regarded as a candidate to become the Yankees’ second baseman of the future. However, the acquisition of Starlin Castro from the Chicago Cubs before the 2016 season sent Refsnyder into the role of a utility man.
Refsnyder saw time at second base (eight games), left field (five games) third base (one game), right field (23 games) and first base (27 games) during his 58-game stint with the Bombers last season.
As the Yankees dealt with several injury problems at certain positions, Refsnyder didn’t necessarily fill the void, as he slashed just .250/.328/.309 with no home runs.
With spring training well underway, the Yankees’ fifth-round pick of the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft from the University of Arizona faces a tight crunch that may keep him from achieving a spot on the Yankees’ Opening Day roster.
Castro, third baseman Chase Headley and left fielder Brett Gardner are standing in the way of Refsnyder at three of the positions he has played, while Yankees appear more enthusiastic about having Aaron Judge and his massive power in right field. At first base, Greg Bird will return from a year off cause by his right labrum injury.
As for the bench, Chris Carter, Matt Holliday and Tyler Austin (when he returns from the DL) will be ahead of him on the first base depth chart while Aaron Hicks and Ronald Torreyes will likely snag the final two spots on the 25-man roster by April 2.
With all that considered, it shouldn’t surprise you one bit that general manager Brian Cashman is gauging the market for Refsnyder — who still carries some trade value.
Despite what we saw last year, he still packs a promising bat, invaluable defensive versatility and a team-friendly contract that includes control through the 2022 season and one minor league option. We don’t know if Cashman is just hearing offers for Refsnyder or is outright shopping him but if he’s doing the latter, he needs to hurry as his value doesn’t seem to be getting any higher.
He’s off to a slow start down in Tampa (2-for-14 with five strikeouts in six spring training games) and it looks like he’ll be heading back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to kickoff 2017.
That uses up his final minor league option and will virtually guarantee the Yankees won’t get a sizeable offer for him unless he’s packaged with other prospects. With insufficient playing time in the bigs coming his way, his value may not be higher than it is right now.
A trade now would undoubtedly be a far cry from the last time Rob Refsnyder’s name was included in trade talks. At the 2015 trade deadline, New York reportedly rejected a trade offer that would’ve sent Refsnyder and long reliever Adam Warren to the Oakland Athletics for Ben Zobrist.
Zobrist went on to maintain a .816 OPS and win a World Series with the Kansas City Royals, while Yankees’ second basemen registered a .726 OPS and struck out in 20.4 percent of their at-bats throughout the second half en route to a Wild Card elimination.
Although his market value may never reach that level again, Refsnyder can be a pretty serviceable player on perhaps a rebuilding team looking for some upside and ready to truly assess Refsnyder with consistent at-bats. The Yankees haven’t and won’t be able to do so in 2017, so they might as well cash in on a top-prospect turned odd-man out.