Guest Post: Replacing a Legend: The Story of A Bust Prospect

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, and Miller Huggins.

(OOTPdevelopments.com)
(OOTPdevelopments.com)

For the 2015 season, the New York Yankees had a tough task to deal with, replacing the legend Derek Jeter. Thankfully, Brian Cashman brought us the answer in Didi Gregorius. That being said, this is far from the only time the Yankees have had to replace a legend. David Robertson did an excellent job replacing Mariano Rivera in 2014 and of course, the late Yogi Berra did a legendary job replacing the legendary Bill Dickey as the Yankees primary catcher. People, however, won’t always handle the job of replacing players well at all. The Yankees attempted to replace Robinson Cano with Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, and tried to replace them with Stephen Drew, none of which have worked out thus far. Now sure, Robinson Cano wasn’t a legend, but he was the stalwart of the second base position for the Yankees the last several years.

In 1969, the New York Yankees were facing another less than enviable situation. How the hell do you replace Mickey Mantle, the Yankees’ legendary center fielder? On October 7, 1968, the 36-year old Mantle announced that he wanted to be part of the 1969 pennant race and work with the extremely young team (Tommy Tresh being second-eldest at age 29!). Rumors had been evident in the idea of Mantle wanting to retire at the end of the 1968 season, but Mantle said he felt great and was planning to attend Spring Training in 1969. He even showed concern about the upcoming expansion draft, stating that he will retire as a Yankee when he is hitting only .240 and making $100,000 and with no one else.

However, on March 1, 1969, Mantle announced in Fort Lauderdale that he would retire after talking with Ralph Houk and that for the team it would be best if Mantle stepped away. He also cited that the chain of restaurants he was creating (Mickey Mantle’s Country Cookin’ Restaurants) as well as clothing stores. Mantle admitted that the previous autumn he would play another year if he felt good in Spring Training, but decided as the months went by that it was time to hang up the spikes. Mike Burke, then President of the Yankees, announced on the spot that the Yankees would retire his No. 7 as a result. But with the retirement, a new question was to be asked, who is going to replace him?

The Story of a Man from Wisconsin

Jerry Kenney was born on June 30, 1945 in the city of St. Louis,  Missouri. A three-sport player, Kenney made his prime in basketball in the city of Beloit, Wisconsin, an exurb of Chicago, Illinois. Kenney was named one of the prime eight in the Big Eight Conference’s all-star team for 1962. Sports writers of Racine, Madison, Kenosha and Janes, Wisconsin all represented the Beloit Purple Knights on the crew. Later that March, Kenney had managed to get honorable mentions for his basketball performance at the state level. The next year, the 6ft 0in senior from Beloit High School was chosen on the first team for the state of Wisconsin in 1963. That year, Kenney managed to finish as a top scorer at the 1963 State Basketball Tournament at the fieldhouse for the University of Wisconsin Badgers. In 1963, the Beloit Purple Knights went undefeated in basketball and later on, when Kenney was presented a gift for their performance in 1969, his coach mentioned that he was a baseball and basketball star.

In May 1964, the New York Yankees signed the former high school standout to a contract to play baseball for the Yankees in the brand new Florida Rookie Baseball League, which a year later became the Gulf Coast League. He was signed to the Sarasota team, which was under control of the Yankees. By the beginning of 1967, Kenney was in the International League (AAA) for Columbus. He was the all-Star shortstop in 1966, hitting .292 and kept climbing the ladder in the Yankees organization. Houk believed that Kenney was ready for the big leagues in January, mentioning that the infield could possibly be Mantle at 1B, Horace Clarke at 2B, a mix of Bobby Murcer, Kenney or Ruben Amaro, Sr. at SS and a platoon of Charley Smith & Mike Ferraro at 3B. By February 18, 1967, Kenney re-signed with the Yankees for a major league contract along with Lou Clinton. However, on March 22, Kenney was re-assigned to AAA unlike what Houk had said in January. Kenney would not make his MLB debut until September 5. Wearing No. 14, Kenney appeared in 20 games, batting at a .310/.412/.397 clip with 1 home run and OPS+ of 146 in a small sample size of 74 plate appearances.

The next year, however, Kenney along with Murcer were both drafted into the service for the United States Military and missed the 1968 season. The Yankees tried to replace Kenney and Murcer for a year with a couple of newcomers in the form of third baseman Bob Cox (the Bobby Cox) and shortstop Gene Michael. The GM of the Yankees, Lee MacPhail, tried to acquire Luis Aparicio from the Baltimore Orioles, but ended up settling on having Michael play shortstop. Murcer and Kenney were discharged from the Navy and the Army in December 1968.

So, Who is Replacing Mantle?

The decision was made in Spring Training to move Joe Pepitone from center field to 1st base to replace Mantle. As a result, the decision was made by Ralph Houk to have Kenney transition into an outfielder. The 24-year old shortstop was basically making the same transition Mantle had made in 1951. Kenney admitted publicly though that he was not as good as Mantle and that the Yankees knew that. In his minor league career, Kenney had only hit 7 home runs and admitted that he’s a “Punch and Judy Hitter,” meaning he knows he cannot hit home runs, but surprises himself when he does. However, the Yankees saw great value in his ability to reach base, hitting never lower than a .290 batting average in the minors and his speed. The Yankees, who put Murcer at third base were running Tom Tresh at shortstop, who had a rough 1968 as well as Pepitone at 1B, were betting on Murcer and Kenney reproducing at least what they had in the minors.

At the same time, the departing third base coach, Frankie Crosetti, was offered to have his No. 2 retired in his honor for his 37 years of service to the New York Yankees. He ultimately decided against it and asked the Yankees to give the number to the next up and coming player and Kenney was chosen for that regard.

However, there seemed to be a disaster forming coming into the 1969 season. Manager Ralph Houk, having lost Mantle’s bat, also lost the amount of power that was going on in the lineup. The door also opened that the lineup had only one legitimate home run hitter in Joe Pepitone. Houk told the press that without Mantle, it could be a psychological asset for the team. However, Houk was reliant on Kenney, Tresh and Murcer to be the important part of a small ball lineup. The only sure things were really in the pitching with Mel Stottlemyre and Lindy McDaniel. The 1969 season for Kenney was very average, however, and in 130 games, Kenney had only two home runs and 34 RBI. His OBP of .328 and .311 was definitely below the short sample size in 1967 and not like his Minor League numbers. To make things even worse, he managed only an 83 OPS+, which is definitely not the production that a starting player should have. Showing the weaknesses in the 1969 team, he still managed a rate of 3 wins above replacement, which is the only positive of the 1969 season for Kenney when it comes to SABERmetrics. Defensively, despite some promise at the beginning of the season in CF, it was blatant that Kenney was not going to repeat the track of Mantle and become a star in center field. He only played 31 games in the outfield (all center field), and while he committed no errors, he never stayed out there. Kenney managed to play 83 games at 3B and 10 games at SS that season, managing 7 errors when playing at 3B. Contrary to the plans at the beginning of the season, they put Mantle for the most part in the outfield.

A Hitter or Not?

The poor 1969 season didn’t bode well at the beginning of 1970, when the Yankees offered him a total of $18,000 for a salary for 1970, a raise from $12,000 in 1969. However, Kenney wanted more from the front office, asking for $30,000. He ended up signing for an undisclosed amount in early March. Let’s put it this way, if 1969 was bad, 1970 was even worse. Now permanently an infielder, Kenney played 140 games, managing 4 of his 7 major league home runs in that season: April 26 (off Blue Moon Odom of the Oakland As), June 12 (off Aurelio Monteagudo of the Kansas City Royals), July 1 (off Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers) and July 26 (off future Yankee Catfish Hunter!). The homer off Catfish would be Kenney’s final MLB home run, and the 25 year old Kenney managed a whopping .193 batting average! Repeat, .193! Stephen Drew, eat your heart out. The final slash line for the 1970 season was .193/.284/.282, propelled by 52 walks to 44 strikeouts and 7 triples of his 78 hits. To make things even worse, he had an OPS+ of a mere 61. SABERmetrics rips this season to shreds: -17 Rbat! -17! Even his lackluster 1969 season was only good for -9. If you thought it could get any possibly worse, let’s look at his defense: 17 ERRORS AT THIRD BASE in 135 games. We rip Chase Headley’s head off for his errors in the 2015 season and lackluster offense, but holy hell, this takes the cake.

Credit to Kenney, his 1971 season was definitely a turnaround after the disastrous 1970, at least offensively. In 120 games, Kenney ran up his slash line to .262/.368/.311. Credit to him because he reduced his strikeouts even further and raised his walk rate, something he was always good at doing. For the first time in a legit sample size, Kenney managed a 100 OPS+ (exactly 100; he had a 146 in 1967 in a small sample size). However, his defense was not an improvement whatsoever. Still a primary third baseman, Kenney managed 15 errors and a .953 fielding percentage at third base. (You’d think Houk and company would have pulled him by this point!) However, an interesting note courtesy of Retrosheets: On July 18, 1971, Kenney started the bottom of the 6th  with a single, followed by a Bobby Murcer walk and Roy White being hit by a pitch from Tom Bradley of the Chicago White Sox. The unusual part, 2 innings later: Kenney led off the inning with a single, Murcer drew yet another walk and reliever Terry Forster nailed Roy White. You know things went well in a game when déjà vu becomes involved.

The End

Well, 1971, while a much better season offensively, proved to be another flash in the pan. In 1972, Kenney (who was paid $32,000) only appeared in 50 games. The Yankees had seen enough of Kenney at 3rd base finally, playing only 1 game at the position that year and 45 at shortstop. His hitting did not improve whatsoever. In fact, it went backwards again. Kenney only managed a .210/.304/.227 slash line and a 62 OPS+. His walks and strikeouts evened out and there was just no ability to hit whatsoever in that short sample size. Playing shortstop for his time on the season, Kenney managed only 6 errors, but that still was basically 6 errors too many, because his career with the Yankees was basically toast.

On November 27, 1972, the Yankees closed the door on Kenney in Honolulu, Hawaii when Lee MacPhail turned Kenney, along with catcher John Ellis and outfielders Charlie Spikes & Rusty Torres to the Cleveland Indians for their star third baseman, Graig Nettles. (The Yankees also received catcher Jerry Moses in the deal.) This was the last deal that was made under the CBS ownership, as on January 3, 1973, it was announced at a press conference that a ship-builder named George M. Steinbrenner, car manufacturer John DeLorean and a group of investors would buy the New York Yankees from CBS. That said, the 1973 Cleveland Indians marked the end for the 28-year old Kenney, who only appeared in five games for the team. While he made a nice short impression: batting .250 in those 5 games, Kenney was released by the Indians on May 4. After sitting out for a while, Kenney was re-signed by the Yankees on July 30, but never returned to the big league club to play for Houk. His career was over.

When he played for the Yankees, he played in 460 games, hitting a meager .237/.326/.299 for being one of the big name players who was supposed to help the Yankees get through the post-Mantle era. However, it was not to be, as he managed only an 81 OPS+ in his tenure with the Yankees. Kenney was a backdoor prospect who the Yankees liked when they signed him in 1964 out of Wisconsin, but never lived up to the true potential he had as an on-base player who could be an offensive improvement for a power-drained team. His defense was never strong at 3rd base despite being an infielder and by 1972, all the lust was gone. I hate to say this, but I think the best thing he did was get us Graig Nettles, who would go on to have a storied Yankee career as their third baseman.

DotF: Sanchez continues to rake in AzFL; Mitchell makes two starts in Puerto Rico

Both C Gary Sanchez and LHP Chaz Hebert will participate in the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game. Here are the East and West rosters. The AzFL Fall Stars Game will be played at 8pm ET tonight. You can watch live on both MLB.com and MLB Network. Here’s the weekly winter ball update.

Arizona Fall League

  • OF Tyler Austin: 13 G, 13-48 (.271), 7 R, 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 1 K, 4 SB, 2 CS (.271/.352/.438) — nice showing in the AzFL after a poor summer
  • OF Dustin Fowler: 8 G, 10-34 (.294), 9 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 5 K, 5 SB — looking forward to seeing what he does next year … he has tools and was a two-sport guy in high school, so he’s still figuring out this baseball thing
  • C Gary Sanchez: 15 G, 21-64 (.328), 10 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 2 BB, 13 K, 3 SB, 1 CS, 1 HBP (.328/.353/.688) — leads the league in homers (by two) and total bases (by eleven)
  • SS Tyler Wade: 12 G, 7-36 (.194), 4 R, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 6 K, 1 SB, 1 CS (.194/.286/.250) — curious to see how he handles Double-A pitching next year, that’ll be a big test for him
  • RHP Domingo Acevedo: 4 G, 4 GS, 6.1 IP 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR (4.26 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) — I wonder how quickly they’ll look to move him up the ladder next season since he turns 22 in March
  • LHP Ian Clarkin: 4 G, 4 GS, 16.1 IP, 22 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 10 BB, 10 K, 1 HR, 1 HB, 1 WP (6.06 ERA, 1.96 WHIP) — the results stink but I’m just glad he’s healthy
  • LHP Chaz Hebert: 4 G, 0 GS, 9 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 8 K (1.00 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) — he’s Rule 5 Draft eligible and I’m really curious to see what happens … he had a pretty nice year (2.45 ERA and 3.13 FIP in 143 innings at mostly High-A Tampa)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 6 G, 0 GS, 7.2 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 1 WP (8.22 ERA, 1.57 WHIP)

Dominican Summer League

  • IF Abi Avelino: 1 G, 0-1, 1 K
  • RHP Andury Acevedo: 2 G, 0 GS, 1.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 WP (5.40 ERA, 2.40 WHIP)
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 1 G, 0 GS, 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (9.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) — remember when he was on the MLB roster for like two days this year but didn’t pitch? what a time to be alive
  • UTIL Jose Rosario and SS Jorge Mateo are on rosters but have not appeared in a game yet.

Mexican Pacific League

  • OF Rico Noel: 9 G, 4-38 (.105), 5 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 4 BB, 11 K, 5 SB, 1 CS (.105/.190/.158) — Rico’s a runner, he ain’t a hitter
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 10 G, 0 GS, 7 IP, 13 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 11 K, 2 HR, 1 WP (11.57 ERA, 2.29 WHIP)
  • RHP Luis Niebla: 5 G, 5 GS, 25.2 IP, 18 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 11 BB, 15 K, 1 HR, 2 HB, 1 WP (3.51 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)
  • RHP Cesar Vargas: 12 G, 0 GS, 9.2 IP, 13 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 13 K, 3 HR, 1 HB (3.72 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)

Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico)

  • IF Cito Culver: 4 G, 2-12 (.167), 1 BB, 5 K (.167/.231/.167) — might be time to try him on the mound
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 2 G 2 GS, 8.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1 HB (3.12 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) — glad he’s getting some more innings after spending a big chunk of the season in the bullpen
  • 2B Angelo Gumbs is listed on a roster but has not appeared in a game yet.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • C Francisco Arcia: 17 G, 13-44 (.295), 3 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 6 RBI, 7 BB, 8 K (.295/.392/.409) — I’m pretty sure he’s a minor league free agent this offseason, so he might not even be in the organization anymore
  • OF Ben Gamel: 18 G, 16-63 (.254), 8 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 8 BB, 14 K, 2 SB, 1 CS (.254/.329/.460) — he’s Rule 5 Draft eligible and I think he’ll be added to the 40-man roster … the deadline to do so is two weeks from yesterday
  • OF Ericson Leonora: 14 G, 4-22 (.182), 5 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 5 K, 1 SB (.182/.217/.318)
  • OF Teodoro Martinez: 22 G, 21-82 (.256), 14 R, 2 3B, 7 RBI, 4 BB, 11 K, 2 SB, 2 HBP (.256/.307/.305)
  • UTIL Jose Pirela: 13 G, 21-48 (.438), 12 R, 5 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 9 BB, 3 K (.438/.526/.646) — he’s been intentionally walked three times already!
  • RHP Luis Cedeno: 4 G, 0 GS, 3.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 B, 1 K, 1 HB, 1 WP (4.91 ERA, 1.36 WHIP)
  • RHP Jaron Long: 4 G, 4 GS, 23.2 IP, 20 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 11 K, 1 HR (1.90 ERA, 1.01 WHIP)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 9 G, 0 GS, 7.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 5 BB, 10 K, 1 HR (8.22 ERA, 1.57 WHIP) — he went unpicked in the Rule 5 Draft last year and I’m guessing the Yankees will bet that’ll happen again this winter
  • IF Thairo Estrada is listed on a roster but has not yet played in a game.

Yankees do not make any qualifying offers before Friday’s deadline

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As expected, the Yankees did not tender any qualifying offers to free agents prior to today’s 5pm ET deadline. They haven’t officially announced anything yet, but yeah. Their only free agents this offseason are Chris Young, Stephen Drew, and Chris Capuano. None of worth even half a qualifying offer.

Long story short, the QO is a one-year contract worth $15.8M that entitles the player’s former team to draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. The deadline to accept or reject the QO is next Friday. No player has ever accepted the QO and I don’t think anyone will accept this year either.

Here’s the list of QO for this offseason. (Warning: Auto-play video.) There are several surprises so far (Marco Estrada! Ian Kennedy! Colby Rasmus!), so we might actually see a player accept this year. Except we’ve been saying that four years in a row now. Either way, no extra 2016 draft picks for the Yankees.

Mark Teixeira has “no problems at all” with broken shin, won’t begin running until January

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

It has now been nearly 12 weeks with Mark Teixeira fouled a pitch off his right shin, suffering what was first diagnosed as a bone bruise and later diagnosed as a small fracture. It has been eight weeks since the Yankees confirmed Teixeira was done for the season. The team said the fracture came with a three-month recovery timetable.

At a charity event earlier this week, Teixeira told reporters his shin is healing well and he has resumed full workouts. He is not scheduled to begin running until January, but is doing basically everything else right now.

“I feel great. No problems at all,” said Teixeira to Brian Lewis. “I’m working out full-speed. I don’t start running until January, anyway, but we don’t expect that’s going to be an issue at all. I’m doing full workouts, so nothing really changed.”

Teixeira, 35, was pretty awesome before getting hurt this season. He hit .255/.357/.548 (143 wRC+) with 31 home runs in 111 games while playing the hell out of first base. I felt Teixeira was the team MVP before getting hurt. He was a huge middle of the lineup force.

Injuries are nothing new for Teixeira, who played in only 372 of 648 possible games from 2012-15. Wrist surgery in 2013 was the most significant injury, though he also dealt with calf and hamstring problems. This shin injury is pretty fluky. I mean, what can you do about a foul pitch like that?

Teixeira is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract and hopefully he’ll have himself a big walk year. He’s not stupid, Teixeira knows Greg Bird is in line to take his job, so hopefully he gives the Yankees a lot to think about next summer. First he needs to get healthy and it sounds like things are going well with the shin.

Second Baseman of the Future? [2015 Season Review]

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

For the first time in a long time, the Yankees leaned on their farm system for help this past season. Whenever a need arose, they dipped down into the minors, called someone up, and hoped for the best. It worked too. Several young players impressed in their limited time while others got a taste of the show, if nothing else.

Second baseman Rob Refsnyder was one of those players who got a taste of the big leagues this year, though not as much of a taste as many of us expected. The Yankees didn’t get a whole lot from second base this year, yet when Stephen Drew struggled for long stretches of time, the team never did make a change. It wasn’t until late in the season that Refsnyder really got a chance to help.

The Errors of Spring

The Yankees always say jobs are up for grabs in Spring Training, and while Drew wasn’t a significant road block at second base, it was unlikely Refsnyder would unseat him for the job in camp. Refsnyder appeared in 26 Grapefruit League games, the most of any player in camp, and he hit .364/.462/.568 with six doubles and nearly as many walks (eight) as strikeouts (ten). He mashed.

The problem: he did not catch the baseball, at all. There were questions about Refsnyder’s defense coming into the season, but geez, he committed six errors in 92 innings at second base in Spring Training. There were many different kinds of errors too. Throwing errors, ground ball errors, double play pivot errors, you name it. Errors are a bad way to evaluate defense, but the error total matched the eye test in camp. Refsnyder was bad in the field. Bad bad bad. He was going to have to play flawless defense to have any chance to make the team and it didn’t happen.

Return to Triple-A

Refsnyder returned to Triple-A Scranton to start the regular season and the errors continued. Three in his first four games, seven in his first 14 games, and eleven in his first 37 games. Gosh. “I want to be aggressive and on my terms,” he said later this summer, explaining the errors happened because he was too passive.

The errors stopped — that doesn’t necessarily mean his defense improved, but the errors stopped — and Refsnyder was hitting, though not as well as he had in previous years. His batting line sat at .275/.366/.380 (121 wRC+) with 14 doubles, five homers, a 10.7% walk rate, and a 12.9% strikeout rate in 71 games through the end of June. This is a guy who hit .300/.389/.456 (137 wRC+) in 77 Triple-A games last year, remember.

The First Call-Up

On July 10th, the Yankees finally called up Refsnyder to help out at second base. Drew’s batting line was sitting at .181/.253/.370 (67 wRC+) at the time and boy, we were all ready for Refsnyder. No one seemed to care his Triple-A production had slipped.

The Yankees called Refsnyder up because they were facing two lefties that weekend, Eduardo Rodriguez and Wade Miley. Refsnyder started both games, went 0-for-3 against Rodriguez, then went 2-for-4 with a home run the next day. He actually homered against a righty, not Miley.

That was the weekend before the All-Star break. Refsnyder hung around for the break, then started at second base in the first two games of the second half. The first game was against a lefty (Mike Montgomery), the second was not (Hisashi Iwakuma). Refsnyder went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in the two games. His defense looked … uncomfortable. Let’s leave it at that.

The Yankees sent Refsnyder back down to Triple-A after his four-game cameo. There was some talk of attitude problems that never really got confirmed — and will never get confirmed, the Yankees aren’t the type of organization to throw someone under the bus like that — but whatever the reasoning, Refsnyder was sent back down and Drew returned to second base.

September Call-Up

Refsnyder spent just about the entire second half with Triple-A Scranton. He hit only .229/.296/.379 (92 wRC+) in 36 games after returning to the minors, which didn’t exactly help his case for a return to the big leagues. (The Yankees did pass on trading him for Ben Zobrist, however.) The Yankees eventually called Refsnyder back up, but not until September 1st, when rosters expanded.

Like many of this year’s call-ups, Refsnyder didn’t play a whole lot, especially at first. He was called up on September 1st, got a garbage time at-bat against the Blue Jays on September 11th, played one inning of defense as part of a double switch against the Mets on September 19th, then pinch-hit against the Mets on September 20th. That was all his action in the first three weeks after being called up.

We didn’t know Drew was dealing with a concussion at the time. Dustin Ackley was playing well and had assumed the second base job, though the Yankees were scheduled to face a lot of lefties at the end of the season, so Joe Girardi gave Refsnyder an opportunity. The team faced seven lefty starters in their final eleven games of 2015. Refsnyder started all seven.

In those seven games, Refsnyder went 9-for-24 (.360) with two doubles, a home run, three walks, and three strikeouts. The home run was pretty significant too. It provided a big insurance run on the night the Yankees clinched their first postseason berth since 2012.

Refsnyder’s defense looked better in September than it did in the limited look in July — Girardi did say after the season the team was pleased with the defensive progress Refsnyder made after being sent down in July — though there was clearly still some room for improvement. The bat was too good to ignore though.

During his 16 games with the Yankees, Refnsyder authored a .302/.348/.512 (130 wRC+) batting line with two homers in 47 plate appearances. It’s not much, but Refsnyder is a guy who will have to hit his way into the lineup, and he did that in the second half. He hit .271/.359/.402 (123 wRC+) in 117 Triple-A games as well.

Refsnyder played so well down the stretch that he started the wildcard game against Dallas Keuchel and the Astros, though he went 0-for-3, like a few too many of his teammates. Still, the fact he was in the lineup in the wildcard game was pretty telling. Refsnyder won Girardi over pretty quickly.

Looking Ahead to 2016

Reports indicate the Yankees are “leaning toward” playing Refsnyder and Ackley at second base in 2016, but we’ll see. It’s tough to believe anything any team says this early in the offseason. If nothing else, Refsnyder showed the Yankees he’s a viable platoon bat who won’t absolutely kill them in the field. It wouldn’t shock me if Refsnyder was the starting second baseman next year. It also wouldn’t shock me if he was part of a platoon, if he started the year at Triple-A, or if he got traded. So there you go.

Mailbag: Raburn, Sanchez, Schwarber, O’Day, Profar, Rios

Got 14 questions for you in this week’s mailbag. Our email address is RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. Use that to send us any and all questions, comments, links, etc.

Raburn. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Raburn. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Alex asks: How about Ryan Raburn for our lefty mashing 4th outfield spot?

I was surprised the Indians let Raburn go. It was only a $3M option — to be fair, $3M to the Indians is not the same as $3M to the Yankees — but he seems tradeable at that salary. Raburn has hit lefties very hard since landing in Cleveland. He hit .325/.415/.589 (173 wRC+) against them this year and .278/.364/.514 (142 wRC+) in three years with the Tribe. Raburn is not young (34) and he’s strictly a corner outfielder now — he hasn’t played third base since 2011 and has only 17 innings at second since 2012 — so there’s not a ton of versatility there. He could work as a fourth outfielder though, sure.

Marc asks: After reading the Sanchez post, do you think his huge summer and fall make him a preseason Top 100 prospect? If so, how many other Yankees join him on that list?

I do. I thought Gary Sanchez should have been a top 100 prospect last year, but alas. He’s not top 10 or top 25 or anything crazy like that, but he belongs in the back half of a top 100 list for sure. Luis Severino and Greg Bird graduated to the big leagues this summer, so they won’t be on any prospect lists next season. In addition to Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Jorge Mateo are safe bets to appear on top 100 lists next spring. James Kaprielian might sneak on a few since he seems to have some very big fans.

Michael asks: What would you think of Anibal Sanchez as a potential trade target? Tigers have a bloated payroll. He’s a potential bounce back candidate. Would only be a two year commitment.

I think the Tigers are more likely to keep Sanchez and try to win next year. Before pulling the trigger on a trade, you’d have to figure out why he went from 0.38 HR/9 and 4.6 HR/FB% from 2013-14 to 1.66 HR/9 and 16.0 HR/FB% in 2015. His velocity is fine but he had on-and-off shoulder problems this year, which could have caused his stuff to flatten out. If Sanchez is not fully healthy, or at least not as strong as he was a few years ago, he might not be a bounceback candidate at all. He might just be in decline. Sanchez has two years and $38.6M left on his contract. Based on this quick glance, I say avoid.

P.J. asks: If the Padres do NOT pick up Clint Barmes option is he a better possibility for the Yankees as a backup SS instead of Ryan?

The Padres did indeed decline their $2M option for Barmes earlier this week. The 36-year-old hit .232/.281/.353 (75 wRC+) overall this past season, and that includes a .242/.299/.374 (85 wRC+) line against southpaws. Ryan had a 64 wRC+ overall and a 109 wRC+ against lefties. (I don’t expect him to do that again though.) They’re both good defenders but Barmes is strictly a shortstop — he’s played ten innings at third base since 2008 and 65 innings at second base since 2010. Ryan has already shown he can play all over the infield and even right field in a pinch. If anything, I’d say this is a lateral move. (The Yankees would still have to pay Ryan after releasing him too, remember.)

He looks like a Schwarber. (David Banks/Getty)
He looks like a Schwarber. (David Banks/Getty)

Kevin asks: Who would say no? Luis Severino for Kyle Schwarber.

This one of those “both teams would say no” trades. I think it favors the Yankees slightly but I am the low man on Schwarber. Some see a future MVP candidate, I see a a guy without a position and a significant platoon split. He’s going to destroy righties though. At the same time, some see Severino as a reliever. I myself have some doubts about his ability to hold his stuff for 180+ innings year after year, but don’t listen me, I’m wrong all the time. Also, I’m not sure where the Yankees would actually play Schwarber. Make him a catcher/first base/corner outfield/DH rover?

David asks: With all the talk about trading players with NTC, it makes me curious: how does it work? How far down the line does a team go in trade talks before seeing if the player is willing to waive it? I feel like we hear about it around the trade deadline when a team is out of the race and trying to dump salary for prospects, so isn’t so concerned about offending the player or PR fallout if the player refuses to waive the NTC, but no so much in the off-season.

I have no inside information on this. I’m guessing it’s on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes they might approach the player beforehand and other times they might get a little further along in the process. It depends on the player, I suppose. If the Yankees wanted to trade, say, CC Sabathia, I think they’d work the trade out to the point of near completion instead before looping him in. That way you can present him the entire trade and explain the thinking, etc. It might be a little disrespectful to ask Sabathia if he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause simply because you want to get rid of him but don’t have anything worked out yet. At the very least, you’d need to have a serious trade partner I think. For someone else, who maybe isn’t as tenured or ingrained as Sabathia, maybe you approach them ahead of time. I don’t really know.

Jordan asks: What would you think of Marlon Byrd as next year’s designated lefty-masher? He absolutely destroys lefties and, while he probably is a little more expensive than the reclamation-types they usually go for, he seems like a good fit (I don’t know that he’s in line for a starting gig at his age).

That could work, definitely. Byrd hit .271/.324/.496 (121 wRC+) against lefties this year and .292/.335/.519 (133 wRC+) against lefties since resurfacing with the Mets three years ago. I wouldn’t give him an everyday job at this point — he’s 38 and he hit .247/.290/.453 (100 wRC+) overall with declining defense this season — but the Chris Young role? Sure, that could work. Even if he continues to slip a bit and you get a .250/.310/.450 hitter against southpaws, that’s pretty great by bench player standards.

P.J. asks: Which relief pitcher would be a better option for the Yankees as a FA pickup and why, Clippard or O’Day?

Darren O’Day by far. I don’t know if Tyler Clippard was hurt this year or what, but his strikeout (29.5% to 21.3%) and walk (8.3% to 10.3%) rates both took huge steps back this summer. By time the postseason rolled around he couldn’t locate anything and his trademark pop-ups had all become fly balls and line drives. I don’t love O’Day — a guy approaching his mid-30s with a trick delivery scares me, he’s not too far away from being a righty specialist — but right now I’ll take him over Clippard, hands down. I don’t think the Yankees will hand out big money to a reliever this offseason though. If anything, they’ll trade for Craig Kimbrel or someone like that.

Adam asks: Do you think Cashman is likely to pursue Chapman and/or Kimbrel again this off-season? If so, who would you prefer and what’s the most you would give up?

Kimbrel because he’ll actually be available. I’m not quite sure what the Reds are doing — they reportedly listened to offers for Aroldis Chapman at the trade deadline, but the asking price was insane — but we know Kimbrel will be on the market. The Padres looked into trading him at the deadline and they need to clear some payroll this offseason to offset James Shields’ backloaded contract. The reported “Mateo plus some secondary stuff for Kimbrel and Jedd Gyorko” deal at the trade deadline seemed fair to me. Don’t you think? I’d do that. (I’d prefer Chapman to Kimbrel but we’re splitting hairs.)

Paul asks: Do you think the Rangers could make Profar available? Would love to take a chance on him for second base. What do you think the cost would be?

I don’t think they will. His value is way too low to trade him now. Jurickson Profar is still only 22, but he’s missed the last two seasons due to shoulder surgery, and he’s just now starting to play regularly in the Arizona Fall League. He’s doing well (.286/.372/.543) but is limited to DH duty because he can’t throw yet. Thinking about this from the Rangers’ point of view: Profar is way too talented to trade now. His value is too low. The smart move for them is to hold onto him, let him rehab, then see what happens when he’s fully healthy. I’d like the Yankees to take a chance on him for sure. I just can’t see Texas selling so low.

More like Profall amirite. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
More like Profall amirite. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Rays asks: What would Starlin Castro cost the Yankees, assuming they’re interested? He’s expensive and has flaws — doesn’t walk much, barely adequate defender — but he’s young, can play both middle infield positions and balances the lineup with his right handed bat.

There’s a “Brett Gardner for Castro” movement going on right now — mostly in the RAB comments, really — that is crazy talk. I’m sorry Gardner had a bad second half, but Castro has hit .265/.305/.383 (89 wRC+) over the last three years and been close to replacement level overall due to his defense. I get that you’re buying his age 26-29 seasons, but good gravy. I’m not trading a solid at worst, above-average at best player (Gardner) for a bounceback candidate (Castro).

The Cubbies would definitely move Castro right now. They tried to move him at the trade deadline, and when they couldn’t, they benched him for a few days and moved him to second base. Castro has four years and $38M left on his contract and he’s gone backwards the last few years when he should be taking steps forward. Given the salary difference, I think I’d trade Rob Refsnyder for Castro straight up, and that’s probably as high as I’d go. Castro hasn’t hit the last few years, hasn’t played good defense ever, has a history of being a bit of a headache, and is owed some decent money.

Thomas asks: What about Alex Rios as a 4th OF? What type of contract would you expect him to get and what numbers (specifically against lefties) can we expect?

Rios gives me a “the Yankees sign him to be the fourth outfielder, everyone complains, then he inexplicably rakes” vibe for some reason. He had an awful regular season in 2015, hitting .255/.287/.353 (72 wRC+) overall and .229/.267/.303 (54 wRC+) against lefties. That said, his numbers against southpaws were really good the last few years.

AlexRios leftiesIf there was any way to reasonably expect the 2012-14 version of Rios against lefties, sign me up. But 2015 happened, and his overall game has been in decline for a few years, so we can’t just brush it aside. Maybe he’s not a true talent 54 wRC+ hitters against lefties all of a sudden, but he’s probably not a 141 wRC+ guy either.

Rios turns 35 in April and he’s definitely looking at a one-year contract. Signing him to be the fourth outfielder seems plausible if the Yankees believe he’ll be better able to help in a limited role.

Fred asks: Do you think the fact that Daniel Murphy’s defensive shortcomings proved so costly in the World Series will make the Yankees hesitant (or, should I say, even MORE hesitant) to hand the 2B job to the defensively-challenged Rob Refsnyder?

Nah, I don’t think the Yankees think like that. It might scare fans more, but the Yankees know Refsnyder’s defense is not an asset, and they’re aware of the potential consequences. Both Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi said they were happy with Refsnyder’s improvement after he was sent down in July, though I still don’t think the team considers him to be even an average defender. Murphy had some catastrophic errors in the World Series. It was bad. I don’t think Murphy fielding those balls would have made the Yankees any more comfortable with Refsnyder though.

Steve asks: Do you know of any good listing for a teams/GM’s trade history? I was just thinking, for example, how many deals the Yankees have done with the Pirates over the years, but was wondering if they were the team that hooked up with the Yankees the most recently or at least since Huntington/Cashman were both in their positions. Who has never done a trade with the Cashman-led Yankees (beyond waiver claims)? Questions like that.

I know of two sources. First, the Baseball Reference Trade Partners tool, which lets you pick two teams and see all of their trades. Here’s the Yankees and Pirates. They’ve hooked up for nine trades since 2006. The second is the MLBTR Transaction Tracker, which is way more customizable. You can search all transactions (trades, free agent signings, etc.) by team, by GM, by position, whatever. The data only goes back so far though, five years or so.

Cashman has made 13 trades with the Padres, his most with any team during his 17 years as GM. Here’s the list. Cashman has also made 12 trades with the Diamondbacks. Here’s that list. Not surprisingly, the fewest trades have been made with the Red Sox and Rays. One each. That’s it. The only Red Sox trade was Kelly Johnson for Stephen Drew, and the only Rays trade was cash for Nick Green, and that’s not even a real trade. Cashman has made at least one trade with every other franchise during his time as GM. The longest trade “drought” is with the Blue Jays. The last trade with them was the Raul Mondesi deal in 2002.