Right now the Yankees
' major league roster seems to be set, or at least 24 out of the 25 spots are. Thanks to a versatile group of players, Brian Cashman seems to be really into the idea of using the last remaining spot on the roster as sort of a revolving door for whatever it is the team might need at the time. Starlin Castro
gives the Yankees a backup shortstop and third baseman, while the big league bench has Dustin Ackley
as backup at second, first, and all three outfield spots, Aaron Hicks
as a switch-hitting outfielder, and then a backup catcher. This would leave the Yankees with room for one more player, but who can be of use to them?
Cashman keeps saying that he envisions Bird starting the year at Triple-A until one of Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez get hurt, but I don't think it will need to come to that. In a short-term role, the Yankees could call him up for a series and use him as a left-handed compliment to Rodriguez in his old age or give him pinch-hit opportunities late in games. The only way he works as a long-term option–without an injury–is if Starlin Castro can play a passable third base and the Yankees plan to play A-Rod and/or Tex less in 2016 to set up a scenario I talked about earlier in the offseason.
Just because they acquired Castro, it doesn't mean Refsnyder can't still have his uses. Refsnyder exists as a right-handed alternative to Dustin Ackley. As a right-handed hitter, he can be of use if the Yankees are facing an abundance of left-handed pitching and want to break up their lefty-heavy lineup. If Ackley is needed elsewhere on the field, Ref will do well as an emergency second baseman. He would easily spell Castro at second base or allow Castro to move to short in place of Didi Gregorius.
Slade Heathcott/Mason Williams/Lane Adams/Ben Gamel
The Yankees now have nine outfielders on their 40-man roster, meaning they can field a whole new starting outfield just from their reserves. They can call up a different outfielder depending on their needs. Slade and Mason are left-handed hitters and offer speed on the bases, Adams hits right-handed and is also pretty fast, and Gamel is a lefty who can do a little bit of everything. Above all, they can call up one guy one day, send him back down, and call up another the next, giving them a deep supply of outfielders.
Gary Sanchez/Austin Romine
Right now the Yankees have Austin Romine and they have Gary Sanchez, but Romine is out of options and would need to go through waivers to return to Triple-A. He made it once, but would he make it again? The backup catcher battle in spring training will determine a lot about the construction of the 40-man roster. If they keep two backup catcher on the roster, it means they could bring up a third catcher in order to provide extra depth. Sanchez has the advantage of also being a right-handed power hitter, so if they want to use him as a pinch hitter in key spots, they can do that without worrying about who would replace Brian McCann if he got hurt. Since they won't be relying on McCann to back up at first base, it's not a situation that would be useful for very long, but it could have its purpose at times.
A less likely, but still possible scenario has the Yankees carrying an extra reliever. Bullpens typically hold seven relievers, but an extra pitcher might help mitigate fatigue and give Joe Girardi an extra weapon to play with. They enjoyed jostling relievers up and down all year long last season, so now imagine them doing that again, only with an extra player. The MLB bullpen will include Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, Ivan Nova, probably Chasen Shreve, and some collection of Bryan Mitchell, Johnny Barbato, Nick Rumbelow, Nick Goody, Jacob Lindgren, James Pazos, and Branden Pinder. That's 12 relievers, giving the Yankees several different options to bring up and send down over the matter of a single week. If they face a lefty-heavy lineup, they can double up on lefties and if they want to give Masahiro Tanaka more rest, they can use a sixth starter and still have seven relievers. This is where I think they can gain the most flexibility.
Also, don't forget that the 40-man roster currently holds the likes of Kirby Yates and Tyler Olson, who can easily be designated for assignment in order to add players of more value. If Castro proves unable to play third base, watch for Pete Kozma to get the call as sort of a replacement infielder for Brendan Ryan. Aaron Judge could also get the call if the Yankees need a right-handed power bat at some point during the season. Reliever like Tyler Webb, Anthony Swarzak, Diego Moreno might also find their way onto the Scranton shuttle bus, so there are plenty of options, even outside the 40-man roster.
I'm not entirely convinced that this rotating roster spot will work, but it is a scenario that should lead to a stronger roster and a deeper bench. Will it be more valuable than a strong free agent signing? Probably not, but it should give them a leg up every once in awhile.