Prior to the offseason, Rob Refsnyder had a shot at winning the starting second base job for the New York Yankees. Now, with Starlin Castro on the roster for the next five or six seasons, the future is a bit more cloudy for the 24-year-old infielder. The Yankees also have Dustin Ackley, acquired at the trade deadline on the roster. After leaving the Seattle Mariners, Ackley mostly played second base in New York. For his career, Ackley has played 291 games at second base and 274 games in the outfield.
Refsnyder got his first taste of the big leagues late last year, and did quite well. He batted .302/.348/.512 in 16 games and 43 at-bats. Refsnyder also hit two home runs and only made one error in 52 chances at second base. He did not play any outfield for the Yankees, but has played a little bit of right field in the minor leagues. There is little chance Refsnyder will ever be able to claim a starting spot with the Yankees at this point, as he is not athletic enough to play center field, and is blocked in left and right field for years to come. Castro will block him at his natural position.
That has to be a little disappointing for a player who was drafted in the fifth round out of college and has hit .290/.380/.432 in the minor leagues. Refsnyder has knocked 33 home runs in 430 minor league games. He does not strike out, and draws plenty of walks. Refsnyder has drawn over 50 walks in each of the past two years, and drew 84 walks in his first full season of professional baseball. All of the minor league numbers point to Rob Refsnyder being a potentially productive offensive second baseman in the Majors. Defensively, he will at least make most of the plays an average defensive second baseman will make.
If the sum of Rob Refsynder’s skills add up to a competent Major League starter, what good is he doing on the New York bench? Starlin Castro is the answer at second base. Dustin Ackley has already proven himself as more of a role player than starter, and should make a suitable backup to the team’s new second baseman. The Yankees already have a player capable of backing up in the infield and outfield in Ackley. Refsnyder is realistically capable of backing up at second base only.
For all parties involved, the Yankees and Refsnyder, a trade may be the best possible course of action. Sitting on the bench will only serve to diminish the trade value of a potentially attractive infield option. Refsnyder will never supplant Starlin Castro at second (unless things go terribly south for the new Yankee). The Yankees can look to trade Refsnyder to a team in need of second base help like the Washington Nationals and fill in bench depth with a free-agent veteran like Kelly Johnson or Juan Uribe.
Refsnyder has shown enough over the course of his minor league and brief Major League career that a team should view him as a viable starting option. The Nationals are reportedly targeting Brandon Phillips who has two years and $27 million left on his deal. Phillips is in decline at this point, offensively and defensively. His power numbers are sliding to the point where Refsnyder may be able to match the 10-15 home run output of the three-time All-Star.
Rob Refsnyder is not likely to match peak-Brandon Phillips, but he could very well match 35-year-old Brandon Phillips. Neither second baseman is a Silver Slugger waiting to happen at this point in their careers, but Refsnyder will make a fraction of the $27 million owed Phillips over the final two years of his contract. A team with interest in Phillips should check in with the Yankees about the availability of Refsnyder, and the Yankees should listen. If there is a fair deal that nets the Yankees a younger prospect with good potential, that is a deal the team should make. Refsnyder deserves a chance to start at the big-league level, and the Yankees should be able to find a deal that is mutually beneficial to all sides.