The Yankees like versatility, I mean really like it. After so many years of having big clunkers taking up space on the roster, Brian Cashman has gotten almost uncomfortably interested in guys who can play multiple positions. And why not? The more positions you can play, the easier it is to fit you on a roster made up of only 25 spots, 12 of which are dedicated to pitchers. It's why the Yankees have coveted Dustin Ackley for so long, but it's gotten them into a situation where, now that they have him, they might not really need him.
In 2014, the Yankees tried to trade for Dustin Ackley, but Cashman balked at a deal that would have sent Bryan Mitchell to the Mariners. He waited, and about a year later, managed to grab Ackley in a deal for Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez. Ackley was finally a Yankee and they could play him anywhere they wanted. Joe Girardi was excited because he had a player who could be used at five different positions–second base, first base, left field, center field, right field–which was great, because Stephen Drew was awful, and the Yankees didn't really have a backup first baseman or someone who could play center field off the bench. He was under team control for another two full years and it looked like a pretty solid trade in the name of long-term versatility.
However, this offseason, the Yankees have become so versatile that it feels like they don't really need Ackley as much as they thought they did. As a left-handed hitter, Ackley didn't hold a lot of value against lefties, so they went out and decided to replace Chris Young with Aaron Hicks. The thing about Hicks, though, is that he can play all three outfield positions–just like Ackley–only Hicks is a switch-hitter. Dustin Ackley wouldn't be the first outfielder off the bench, but he still had value in the infield. They also used the 27-year-old as a diversion when discussing the second base situation, ultimately opting to acquire Starlin Castro to play at second base. Signed through the next four years, Castro now has second base under control.
At this point, Dustin Ackley might serve as the Yankees' backup first baseman, second baseman, and fifth outfielder, but with one more remaining roster spot in question–and assuming Castro can back up at third–the team could easily replace him. Get rid of Ackley and you can go with some combination of Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder, Ben Gamel, but the thing is you can't take all three. That's where the Yankees are right now with Ackley. He's not a starter anywhere on the field, but he's a backup everywhere, he's three players in one (kind of), and there is value to that, even if it isn't exciting.
The Yankees could probably sell his versatility to someone else and maybe package him for some kind of pitching, but it wouldn't be that great of a return. It won't be a move worth making when whoever they get won't offset the lost roster flexibility they would suffer. Dustin Ackley doesn't have much of a place on the Yankees' roster anymore because they have become so flexible. They don't really need him anymore, but they could use him, for sure, and that's what the value of versatility is all about. We might not be seeing much of Ackley in 2016, you might even forget he's on the team, but he probably isn't going anywhere just yet.