Are you getting sick of all the dead weight in the Yankees lineup yet? If you're already there, it looks like change could be near and help might be on the way. At some point, at least. Brian Cashman was recently on hand at PNC Field to honor Scranton-Wilkes/Barre RailRaiders manager Dave Miley for his International League Hall of Fame induction ceremony. While there he spoke about prospects who might soon find their way to Triple-A and even the majors and alluded that some on the big league team might not be as safe as we have felt they likely are.
He didn't necessarily mention anyone by name, but it's clear that with the prospects he mentioned and the comments he made, he's talking specifically about Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts. As he talked up Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, and Peter O`Brien, there were two key quotes that really have me thinking that the Yankees are slowly preparing themselves to change things up.
Quote 1: "We're just trying to move this thing along. If there are guys struggling in New York, I can't wait."
While this quote sounds like a very general comment on the entire team, he was actually speaking specifically about Jose Pirela being moved to first base. Obviously this move is being facilitated to open up second base so Rob Refsnyder can be promoted to Triple-A, but it's not just that. Brian Roberts is hitting .237/.313/.345 on the season and it doesn't look like he's going to improve any time soon. If they feel that they "can't wait" for things to possibly improve, then getting Refsnyder to Scranton as soon as possible could "move things along" faster than they originally planned. Instead of waiting for midseason with an eye for a September call up, promoting the second baseman now could line him up for a midseason call up to the majors instead.
I imagine they'll give Roberts the first half of the season to look like an actual major league starter just so they can save face after promising him the position, but then they'll be forced to make a move. If Refsnyder is still doing what he's been doing by then there's no way the Yankees can keep him in the minors if they are seriously looking to win ballgames.
Quote 2: "As you see us moving the chess pieces around, you can see us struggling with the defensive part with the backup to Teixeira at first base. We've moved Sizemore over there a little bit. Now we're moving Pirela over just to prepare for what ifs."
That's more or less some shots fired in Kelly Johnson's direction. That's not "just in case" as in "just in case someone gets hurt," that's "what if" as in "what if we got someone in there who could actually play first base." Johnson is hitting .221/.286/.402 this year while providing noticeably shaky defense at first when Mark Teixeira is out of the lineup. They went into the season without an actual backup first baseman, on purpose, and now they are seeing that it's not working out.
Meanwhile, Jose Pirela is hitting .333/.370/.470 in Scranton and though he isn't much of a prospect, he's still just 24 and they have already seen how giving a player a chance can make all the difference, like they did with Yangervis Solarte. Cashman also brought up the idea of promoting Peter O`Brien as well. He has hit .285/.321/.638 with 21 home runs between Tampa and Trenton and will now be transitioning to first base on a full-time basis. Though Pirela is the more realistic option at this time, both are worth trying out because they can't do much worse than Johnson has done so far on both sides of the ball.
All these points coming together can't be a coincidence. Brian Cashman must really believe that Refsnyder can do a better job at second base than Roberts has done. He must think that Pirela and O`Brien are real alternatives to Kelly Johnson's sole purpose on this team. He sees that the Yankees have their troubles and he's hoping to use the farm system to fix those problems. Eventually. Maybe. Unless, of course, he's just buttering us all up for a trade.