Welp. In an unfortunate revelation, the Yankees announced today that to make room on the 25-man roster for Carlos Beltran, they've optioned Rob Refsnyder to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Refsnyder was in the Majors for all of four games
Punting Rob Refsnyder to Scranton in favor of Brendan Ryan (who was activated yesterday) to make room for the newly healthy Beltran is both surprising and aggravatingly unexpected. Refsnyder was in the bigs for all of four games, during which he struggled offensively over the course of 13 whole plate appearances. Stephen Drew now figures to be the everyday second baseman once again, while Beltran will take up shop in right field. Ryan will be the backup infielder.
Let's go over this step by step. Beltran's return was a foregone conclusion, and nothing was going to stop it. His massive contract, his no-trade clause, and the fact that he's actually been a pretty helpful offensive presence since May all combined for a pretty clear sign that he'd be coming back. His putrid start at the plate and awful defense have reduced him to an exactly 0.0 fWAR player thus far, but one would think if he keeps hitting he'll hopefully wind up being more than a replacement level player. One would think that. Let's just hope that Beltran doesn't suddenly remember he's 38 years old.
In short, Beltran was always coming back and it was simply a matter of who would get the axe to make room for him. We now know that Refsnyder was the sacrificial lamb. Refsnyder is not an elite prospect by any stretch of the imagination. He made none of the Top 100 lists, and could routinely be found somewhere near the middle of the Yankees Top 10 lists. That's fine, as not everybody can be Mike Trout (or even Aaron Judge, for that matter). Refsnyder is a recently converted middle infielder with defensive concerns. He's a better Wilmer Flores with a better bat, if you want to get really basic with half-baked player comps. And once again, that's perfectly okay when the other in-house option is Stephen Drew.
Unlike Beltran, Drew has actually been below replacement level at -0.2 fWAR. He found a way to hit 12 home runs at a middle infield position while still being worse than a faceless conceptual Triple-A player. He's hit .182/.257/.372, and wRC+ tells us that he's been 29% worse than league average. There are multiple Twitter accounts devoted to telling us if he's crossed the Mendoza Line yet. He hasn't been all that great defensively either. Stephen Drew has one functional tool left, and it's his power. He's not a starting quality big leaguer by any stretch of the imagination, so bringing up Refsnyder to see what he could do was a no-brainer. Why the heck not?
That's when Brendan Ryan showed up. Ryan's 2013 and 2014 seasons combined for a whopping -1.1 fWAR. He's no longer a defensive wizard. He actually scored negative marks in his defensive metrics across the board last year. He can't stay healthy. He had a wRC+ of 12 last year. The Yankees just kept him instead of Rob Refsnyder.
Here's the thing about Stephen Drew. His player profile, while obviously suboptimal, is actually a rather interesting concept off the bench. A bench guy who can play shortstop and fake it at second and third, while also supplying the occasional dinger? Sign me up! That's a lot more than Ryan can provide. It also gives the Yankees a chance to see what Refsnyder can give them at second base. If he can't handle it, then that's fine. That's when you go grab Ben Zobrist in a trade. However, 13 plate appearances and 34 innings in the field are in no way an adequate amount of time to make a full assessment about a rookie's capacity to stick in the Major Leagues. A rookie player can't make a full offensive adjustment in 13 plate appearances unless the spirit of Tony Gwynn is possessing his body. It just isn't possible, especially for a non-elite hitter like Refsnyder. That's not to say that Refsnyder doesn't have a chance to be a useful hitter at the highest level, but that he's not Kris Bryant. And once again, that's okay.
Instead the Yankees have decided to hamstring their offense and make their lack of wallop off the bench even more apparent. The bench is now Ryan, John Ryan Murphy, Garrett Jones and Chris Young. Young is the one legitimately scary bat in that group, and that's only if there's a left-handed pitcher on the mound. Jones hasn't even been that great against righties (82 wRC+) and is a bit of an adventure in the outfield. Rob Refsnyder hadn't even been given time to get comfortable in the Major Leagues before he was unceremoniously shipped off to Scranton. If Brendan Ryan manages to get hurt again before the trade deadline, then we'll probably see Refsnyder up here again. If not, then we'd better hope Stephen Drew has lost his job to someone from outside the organization at that point.
Regardless, this is a weapons-grade boneheaded move by the Yankees. There's no excuse for keeping Ryan, whose best tool is his clubhouse presence, on the roster over Refsnyder. It just doesn't make an ounce of sense.
Nicolas Stellini is a staff writer at Pinstripe Alley, where he writes about the Yankees and covers the Double-A Trenton Thunder. His national coverage can be found at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.