After Mark Teixeira's resurgent 2015 season, it looked like he might be back to the Teixeira of old. With his contract set to expire at the end of the season, some had wondered if it might be worth it to bring him back on either a one-year or multi-year deal. Those people were crazy, but I was not one of them (okay I was). Unfortunately Teixeira came back this year and showed that instead of being the Teixeira of old, he was just old Teixeira.
This past week he was placed on the disabled list with torn cartilage in his right knee, and with fan-favorite Greg Bird out with a shoulder injury, the Yankees had no real contingency plan. They came into the season with Dustin Ackley as the backup first baseman, but lost him to season-ending shoulder surgery as well. During the off-season, the Yankees signed Chris Parmelee to a minor league deal, and shortly after the season began they brought Nick Swisher back to the organization. Parmelee never really inspired confidence, and after a hot start in April, Swisher has come back down to earth.
The Yankees, scrambling for options, decided to have Rob Refsnyder take some ground balls at first to see how he would hold up. The one thing about Refsnyder that no one has doubted is his ability to hit major league pitching. His defense is where the question marks come. Drafted as an outfielder, moved to second base, fielded balls with his face at third, back to the outfield, Refsnyder has been bouncing around different positions trying to find a home. To his credit, he's been more than willing to do whatever the Yankees ask of him.
He was forced into first base action for the first time on Friday night when Teixeira left the game early. The first batter after Refsnyder took over in the fourth immediately put him into action when third baseman Ryan Flaherty hit a ground ball towards him. He played it properly and got the easy out. While he certainly will not provide the level of defense that Teixeira would, Refsnyder doesn't need to be that. He merely has to be adequate.
If Refsnyder can be close to average, than he can do something for the Yankees that Teixeira could not. By no means am I ready to declare that Refsnyder in general is a better hitter than Teixeira, as the latter is a true middle-of-the-order power threat. However, Teixeira had been anything but that this season. Whether or not injury is to be blamed remains to be seen, but he just was not delivering. As Jason said the other day, by going on the disabled list Teixeira just proved once again how unreliable he is for the Yankees.
With the Yankees mulling possible season-ending surgery for Teixeira, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he has played his last game in pinstripes. Besides eliminating the black hole from the lineup, the other thing his injury does is open the door for Refsnyder to play. And unless the Yankees were to trade for a better candidate, Refsnyder should absolutely be the starting first baseman going forward.
When the Yankees chose to call up Parmelee over Swisher, I was left to think that the Yankees wouldn't go all-in with Refsnyder, but instead would try and set a platoon with him and Parmelee. In some ways it made sense, yet was a completely unappealing option.
Yankees have some right-handed 1B options already. What they needed was a LH option.— Lohud Yankees Blog (@LoHudYankees) June 4, 2016
Parmelee - .774 OPS vs RHP
Swisher - .468 OPS vs RHP
Fortunately though, the Yankees at least seem to be giving Refsnyder a chance to take the job. Facing two right-handed pitchers on Saturday and Sunday, the Yankees gave Refsnyder the start in both games instead of going with Parmelee, but the latter was used as a defensive replacement for the former late in the game.
As long as Refsnyder continues to not be a disaster at first base–he's been fine in his three games of action so far–the Yankees should continue this plan. At least he brings something to the table offensively. He won't be able to replace the power threat that 2015 Teixeira was, but he'll definitely be an improvement over the black hole that Teixeira had been and is the best option currently in the system.
The other benefit of Refsnyder playing a comfortable first base, is that IF (might need a bigger font size for that "if") he can take to the first base role, the Yankees might actually have an answer for the position in 2017. Obviously, Greg Bird seems like the future at first base, but he'll be over a year removed from the game and rehabbing from his shoulder surgery in 2017. While all signs point to him being healthy for next year, Refsnyder would at least give them a stopgap just in case. This would then allow them to take their time with Bird.
First base is now Refsnyder's best chance to stick with the Yankees and show them he belongs in the majors. Refsnyder just needs to take a lesson from The Mighty Ducks. Soft hands, Rob. Concentration, not strength.