Yankees send Brendan Ryan to Cubs to complete Starlin Castro trade

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

Earlier today the Yankees sent Brendan Ryan to the Cubs as the player to be named later in last week’s Starlin Castro trade, both teams announced. This was totally expected. It was an open secret Ryan would be part of the trade, but the Yankees held on to him for a few extra days as a courtesy while the Cubbies sorted through some 40-man roster issues.

Ryan, 33, hit .201/.244/.271 (40 wRC+) with one homer in 289 plate appearances and 113 games for the Yankees after coming over in a September 2013 cash trade with the Mariners. Yes, he actually hit a home run in pinstripes. Here’s the video evidence:

Although he was primarily the backup middle infielder, the Yankees used Ryan at all four infield positions as well as right field over the past two seasons and one month. He even threw two shutout innings in a blowout loss this past season. Ryan exercised his $1M player option after the season.

The Yankees now have 38 players on the 40-man roster. They also have an open bench spot, and if they’re truly willing to use Castro as the backup third baseman, that spot can go to any type of player. If not — Castro hasn’t played third since rookie ball — they’ll need a backup third baseman.

Yankees swap Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan for Starlin Castro

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the second time this offseason and the fifth time in the last 13 months, the Yankees have brought in a change-of-scenery player to add youth to the roster. New York acquired Starlin Castro from the Cubs on Tuesday night, sending Adam Warren and a player to be named later to Chicago. Both teams have announced the trade, so it’s official. Officially official.

Castro, 25, joins Didi Gregorius, Nathan Eovaldi, Dustin Ackley, and Aaron Hicks as young players the Yankees have acquired in trades since last November. All five are talented — they’ve all appeared on at least one Baseball America top 100 prospects list, for what it’s worth — and all five fell out of favor with their former teams. The Yankees swooped in and picked them up as part of their on-the-fly rebuild.

This past season Castro hit .265/.296/.375 (80 wRC+) with eleven home runs in 578 plate appearances. He started the season as Chicago’s shortstop and stayed there for 109 games before being moved to second base. Castro hit .353/.373/.588 (161 wRC+) with six home runs in 42 games after changing positions. Obviously the Yankees are hoping to get that guy going forward.

“He looked like a different player after the position change,” said Brian Cashman to reporters Tuesday evening, after the trade was announced. “I like that he’s athletic. I like his age. (I like that he) can play multiple positions and adds balance to lineup. He’s a contact-oriented player. He’s a free swinger, but a contact (freak) … (Castro) checks a lot of boxes — youth, flexibility.”

The various defensive stats consistently rated Castro as a below-average defender at short. He only played 258 innings at second base, so looking at numbers would be useless at this point. I reckon his second base defense can’t be any worse than what the Yankees were looking at from the Ackley/Rob Refsnyder platoon. Castro is signed through 2019 for $41.4M with a 2020 club option worth $16M. That’s pretty affordable by today’s standards.

Castro’s a former tippy top prospect with big upside, so the appeal is obvious. There’s also major downside too: he’s been one of the worst players in baseball two of the last three years by WAR. His good years have been good but not great (117 wRC+ and 2.8 fWAR in 2014) and his down years have been abysmal (74 wRC+ and 0.1 fWAR in 2013). Special assistant Jim Hendry was the Cubs GM when they signed, developed, and summoned Castro to MLB, so he surely had input into this move.

In Warren, the Yankees are giving up a valuable and a versatile arm capable of doing pretty much anything. Start, long relief, middle relief, setup … Warren’s done it all for the Yankees the last few seasons. The 28-year-old had a 3.29 ERA (3.59 FIP) in 131.1 innings spread across 17 starts and 26 relief appearances in 2015. He was arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason and is projected to earn $1.5M in 2015. Warren is three years from free agency.

Although the Yankees were planning to bring Warren to Spring Training as a starting pitcher, he was likely no higher than sixth on their rotation depth chart behind Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, and Eovaldi in whatever order. Still, Warren’s shown he can succeed in pretty much any role, so he was going to have a important place on the roster in 2016. He’ll be missed.

At this time of the year, a player to be named is usually a non-40-man roster player who is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. That’s not the case here though. Joel Sherman says Brendan Ryan will be the player to be named. They’re holding off because the Cubs don’t want to fill another 40-man spot before Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. Once the draft passes, Ryan will go to Chicago. The Yankees will have two open 40-man spots when it’s all said and done.

Ryan, 33, hit a weak .229/.275/.333 (64 wRC+) in 47 games and 103 plate appearances around a variety of injuries in 2015. He makes his money in the field with his glove, not at the plate. Castro will be the starting second baseman but also figures to double as Gregorius’ backup at short. That would make Ackley and/or Refsnyder the backup plan at second base. We’ll see how that shakes out.

An Ackley/Refsnyder platoon was somewhat intriguing, but I also think it was one of those things that sounds okay in December and leaves you pulling your hair out in May. There’s a lot of risk here. Warren’s going to be tougher to replace than I think many realize, and Castro has been more down than up in recent years. There’s also some crazy high upside. Castro’s a high-level talent and is about to enter what should be his prime years.

Ryan & Jones: The Necessary Bench Players [2015 Season Review]

Acquiring decent bench players has always been difficult for the Yankees. First and foremost, bench players are like relievers. They tend to be good one year and terrible the next. Secondly, the good ones who hit free agency never want to sign with New York because they know they’ll be stuck behind someone with a big name or a big contract or both. Players want to play. The Yankees over the years haven’t been able to promise much playing time to bench guys.

So the Yankees have instead had to grow their own bench players. Either that or acquire them in trades, which is how they ended up with Brendan Ryan and Garrett Jones. Ryan came over in a trade with the Mariners in September 2013 before taking a two-year contract to be Derek Jeter‘s caddy. Jones was part of last offseason’s Martin PradoNathan Eovaldi swap. Both were part of the 2015 bench. For at least part of the season, anyway.

Ryan. (Presswire)
Ryan. (Presswire)

The Utility Infielder, Because You Need One

For the second straight year, Ryan was not healthy enough to be on the Opening Day roster. He had an ongoing back problem in Spring Training, then, once his back was healthy, he strained his calf making a play in the field during a Grapefruit League game. That landed him on the 15-day DL and eventually the 60-day DL. (Ryan was transferred to the 60-day DL to make 40-man roster room for Jacob Lindgren in late-May.)

Eventually Ryan got healthy. He played in some minor league rehab games — that was his Spring Training, basically — before being activated off the DL on June 10th. Ryan made his season debut that day and, naturally, went 2-for-3 with a triple. He reached base three times in the game overall.

Ryan’s return lasted less than two weeks. He appeared in six games over the next eleven days — he started three of them and went 4-for-13 (.308) overall — before returning to the 15-day DL with another back injury on June 22nd.

It wasn’t until after the All-Star break that Ryan returned to the Yankees. He played sparingly the rest of July though did finish the month very well. Ryan went 6-for-16 (.375) with three doubles and a triple in the span of three games at the end of the month. That includes a 2-for-6 with two doubles night in that 21-5 blowout win over the Rangers.

Of course the offense wasn’t going to last though. Ryan has never been much of a hitter and one of those doubles that night looked like this:

That, ladies and gents, is some good ol’ fashioned BABIP luck. It happens.

Ryan stayed healthy the rest of the season but was just awful at the plate. He had four hits in August. Four. Four hits in 35 at-bats (.114) spread across 17 games, including ten starts. A seven-hit September followed. For a while Joe Girardi used Ryan in a straight platoon with Stephen Drew, and, to Ryan’s credit, he did hit .283/.321/.453 (109 wRC+) against southpaws this summer.

All told, Ryan hit .229/.275/.333 (64 wRC+) with a 28.2% strikeout rate and a 4.9% walk rate in 103 plate appearances this past season. He did not hit a home run or steal a base, and 53 of those plate appearances came against lefties. Believe it or not, the 64 wRC+ represents Ryan’s best offensive season since 2011 with the Mariners (84 wRC+).

Ryan makes his living in the field, not at the plate. The defensive stats say he was a below-average defender this summer but it’s hard to take them seriously. He played 261.67 innings in the field. That’s slightly more than 29 full games. The eye test told me Ryan is still really good in the field. He can still do stuff like this:

For the most part Ryan played the middle infield and third base. He also dabbled at first and even spent a few innings in right field. Heck, Ryan threw not one, but two (!) scoreless innings in a blowout loss to the Astros on August 25th. He threw 20 of 28 pitches for strikes and even got a swing-and-miss. What a time to be alive.

As expected, Ryan exercised his $1M player option shortly after the end of the World Series. I suppose the Yankees could look around for an upgrade — Cliff Pennington just signed a two-year contract worth $3.75M, if you’re wondering what backup infielders are going for on the open market — but I consider it a low priority. Utility infielders typically aren’t very good. Ryan still plays strong defense, he’s cheap, and he’s an A+ clubhouse dude. I’m not sure what more you could want from a position that is lucky to crack 150 plate appearances in a season.

(Presswire)
G.I. Jones. (Presswire)

The Perfect Fit That Wasn’t

Coming into this season there were a lot of questions about Carlos Beltran (offseason elbow surgery), Mark Teixeira (terrible second half), and Alex Rodriguez (suspended all of 2014). The Yankees didn’t really know what to expect from any of them. All three could have been at the end of the line.

So, to get themselves some protection, the Yankees acquired Jones in that five-player trade with the Marlins. Jones had experience playing right (Beltran) and first (Teixeira), and could also step in at DH (A-Rod). He provided depth at all three spots. The Yankees had been after Jones for years — they first tried to get him from the Pirates in the A.J. Burnett trade — and they finally got him last winter.

Once it became clear A-Rod and Teixeira still had something left in the tank, it was very hard for Jones to get playing time. He appeared in only 18 of the team’s first 41 games, starting just eight of them. Jones went 6-for-40 (.150) with one walks and eleven strikeouts in those 41 team games. It wasn’t until May 22nd that he hit his first home run. The next day he pitched in a blowout loss.

Jones actually got into a bit of a groove in late-May, going 11-for-25 (.440) with three home runs in the span of 13 team games. The biggest of those three home runs — and Jones’ most notable moment as a Yankee — was a game-winning three run homer in extra innings against the Mariners on June 2nd.

That was a huge hit at the time. The Yankees had lost 13 of their last 19 games and needed someone, anyone, to come through with a huge hit. And that was it. Jones came through. The homer earned him another start the next day and Jones went deep again. It looked like he was finally going to contribute.

It didn’t last though. Jones went back to playing sporadically and eventually the Yankees cut him loose at the end of July. They acquired Dustin Ackley to effectively replace Jones. Ackley could play right field and first base like Jones, as well as fill-in at second base. Plus he’s seven years younger. It made sense. It seemed like a small upgrade at the time but it was an upgrade nonetheless.

The Yankees cut Jones loose, then, after Ackley hurt his back a few days after the trade, the Yankees ended up re-signing Jones to fill his old roster spot. The timing was a bit awkward, I’d say. Ackley missed the entire month of August but Jones never did get appear in another game with the Yankees. He remained with the team for another two and a half weeks or so, then was designated for assignment when Greg Bird got called up.

Jones was unable to hook on with another team after that. I thought maybe someone would pick him up as a lefty power bench bat once rosters expanded in September, but it didn’t happen. All told, Jones hit .215/.257/.361 (65 wRC+) with five home runs in 152 plate appearances spread across 57 games with New York. He played 24 games in right field, 21 at first base, four at DH, four in left field, plus one on the mound. And he pinch-hit a few times.

On paper, Jones was a great fit for the 2015 Yankees. He gave them some protection at first base, right field, and DH, three positions with questions, and his left-handed power looked like a perfect match for Yankee Stadium‘s short right field porch. It didn’t work out. That’s baseball. The Yankees paid Jones $5M this season and he’s a free agent. No reason to think he’ll be back next year.

Yankees decline Bailey’s club option; Ryan picks up player option

Ryan. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)
Ryan. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)

As expected, the Yankees declined Andrew Bailey‘s club option for 2016 earlier today, the team announced. Also, Brendan Ryan exercised his 2016 player option worth $1M. The Yankees actually hold a $2M club option for Ryan, but there’s no reason to pick that up now. Not unless the Yankees feel like being generous and giving Ryan an extra million bucks.

Bailey, 31, originally signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to last season that included a club option for 2015. The team declined the club option and re-signed him to a new minor league contract last winter because he was still rehabbing from shoulder surgery. The club option for 2016 was worth $2M and I didn’t see anything from Bailey during his limited time in September that made me think he’s worth $2M.

Even though the Yankees declined their club option, Bailey remains with the organization as an arbitration-eligible player. MLBTR’s model projects a mere $900,000 salary for Bailey next season if the Yankees decide to keep him around. That’s probably worth it, though Bailey can refuse an assignment to the minors at his service time level, so stashing him in Triple-A probably isn’t an option.

Ryan, 33, was likely looking at a minor league contract if he went out into free agency this offseason, so it’s no surprise he picked up his $1M option. He hit .229/.275/.333 (64 wRC+) in 47 games and 107 plate appearances this summer while playing strong defense. Joe Girardi regularly used him against left-handed pitchers and Ryan responded by hitting .283/.321/.453 (109 wRC+) against southpaws.

The Yankees could eat the $1M and cut ties with Ryan this offseason, but they’ll need to replace him with another shortstop capable backup infielder. They don’t have anyone like that in the minors. The list of free agent backup middle infield types includes Mike Aviles, Clint Barmes, and Cliff Pennington. Spoiler: They’ll annoy you just as much as Ryan. He’s an acceptable backup infielder as long as his playing time is limited.

Refsnyder, Heathcott, Sanchez all make Wildcard Game roster

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Rosters for the 2015 AL wildcard game were due at 10am ET this morning, and shortly thereafter the Yankees officially announced their 25-man squad for their first postseason game in three years. Here is the Astros’ roster and here is the Yankees’ roster for tonight’s winner-take-all game at Yankee Stadium:

PITCHERS (9)
RHP Dellin Betances
LHP Andrew Miller
RHP Bryan Mitchell
RHP Ivan Nova
LHP James Pazos
RHP Luis Severino
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
RHP Adam Warren
LHP Justin Wilson

CATCHERS (3)
Brian McCann
John Ryan Murphy
Gary Sanchez

INFIELDERS (7)
2B/OF Dustin Ackley
1B Greg Bird
SS Didi Gregorius
3B Chase Headley
2B Rob Refsnyder
DH Alex Rodriguez
IF Brendan Ryan

OUTFIELDERS (6)
RF Carlos Beltran
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
LF Brett Gardner
OF Slade Heathcott
PR Rico Noel
OF Chris Young

I’m glad the Yankees took only nine pitchers. There’s really no need for more than that. Plus it’s not like the Yankees are swimming with options right now. CC Sabathia is unavailable after checking into rehab and next in line is probably Andrew Bailey, who wasn’t too good during his September cameo.

Both Severino and Nova started Saturday, so they aren’t fully available tonight. Today is their usual between-starts throw day, so they can probably give an inning or two, maybe three if they’re really efficient, but I doubt it would be much more than that. Obviously the plan is Tanaka to Wilson to Betances to Miller. Anything other than that is probably bad news.

Sanchez had only two garbage time at-bats at the end of the regular season, and the fact he is on the roster suggests the Yankees may start Murphy against the left-hander Dallas Keuchel. Murphy starts, McCann takes over once Keuchel is out of the game, and Sanchez is the emergency catcher. Sanchez could also be a pinch-hitter or DH option if A-Rod gets lifted for Noel at some point.

The rest of the roster is pretty self-explanatory. As I said this morning, I think Young will start tonight’s game, likely in place of Gardner. Young has good career numbers against Keuchel and Joe Girardi loves his head-to-head matchups. Gardner figures to come off the bench as soon as Keuchel is out of the game though. With any luck, no one outside the starting lineup and big three relievers will be used.

Building the Wildcard Game Roster: Position Players

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are in position to clinch a wildcard spot very soon, possibly tonight, so it’s time to start thinking about the wildcard game roster. Earlier today we sorted through the pitching staff, trying to figure out which ten or eleven pitchers the Yankees will carry in the wildcard game. It was easier said than done.

Ten or eleven pitchers — my guess is ten, but you never know — leaves 14-15 position player spots to fill. Joe Girardi will have a decent-sized bench at his disposal, but ideally it won’t come into play too much. The starting lineup will decide the game. As we did with the pitchers, let’s go through the position player group and try to figure out who will be on the wildcard game roster next Tuesday.

The Locks

This is the easy part …

Catcher: Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy
First Base: Greg Bird
Second Base: ???
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius
Third Base: Chase Headley
Outfield: Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran
Designated Hitter: Alex Rodriguez

That’s nine of the 14-15 position player spots right there and they’re all self-explanatory right? Right. That is eighth-ninths of the starting lineup and the backup catcher. All easy calls. Next.

Second Base

For most of the summer, Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan platooned at second base. That is no longer the case. Drew has been dealing with some dizziness/concussion issues that may end his season, but even before that Dustin Ackley wrestled the starting job away from him. Ackley got some playing time, hit right away, and he’s continued to play against right-handers.

Meanwhile, Rob Refsnyder has started each of the Yankees’ last four games against left-handed starters, not Ryan. Chances are Refsnyder will start against lefties Wade Miley, Rich Hill, and Wei-Yin Chen the next three days too. Like Ackley, he got a few at-bats, got some hits, and has received more playing time. That Drew/Ryan platoon was together for 140 games or so. The last 16 have gone to Ackley/Refsnyder.

Smackley. (Presswire)
Smackley. (Presswire)

At this point there is no doubt Ackley will be on the wildcard roster. The rest of the guys is where it gets tricky. Refsnyder is starting against lefties, but would the Yankees actually start him in the wildcard game if they face, say, Dallas Keuchel or Scott Kazmir or Cole Hamels? I get the sense Girardi would stick with Ackley in that situation and just roll with his best player.

If Refsnyder’s not going to start the game, then what’s his role? Pinch-hitter against a lefty reliever. That’s all. I guess he could pinch-run too, but there figure to be other guys on the roster to do that. Refsnyder’s not going to come in for defense. Pinch-hitter against a lefty is a big deal though! It could be the difference in the late-innings of a close game. Given the extra bench spots, I think Refsnyder’s in.

With Ackley and Refsnyder on the roster, the Yankees will need to carry a shortstop-capable backup infielder. Neither of those guys can play short. Not even in an emergency. That leaves a spot for Drew or Ryan. In a vacuum, I’d take Drew over Ryan eight days a week and twice on Sundays. But Drew isn’t healthy and we shouldn’t count on him getting healthy before the wildcard game. He’s still dealing with this dizziness/concussion stuff and has been for almost two weeks now. That puts Ryan on the wildcard game roster along with Ackley and Refsnyder.

The Pinch-Runner

Rico Noel will be on the wildcard game roster. I’m sure of it. One of the benefits of shrinking the pitching staff in the postseason is creating an open roster spot for someone just like Noel. A burner who can come off the bench to pinch-run in the late innings of a close game. Look at Rico run:

The kid can fly and his speed can potentially have a huge impact in the wildcard game. The Yankees brought Noel up this month strictly to pinch-run and I fully expect him to be on the postseason roster. Remember, they carried Freddy Guzman on the postseason roster in 2009 for this exact reason. Noel’s on the wildcard roster. I have no doubt about it.

(Since he wasn’t called up until September 1st, Noel will technically have to be an injury replacement. The Yankees have two position player injury spots available thanks to Mark Teixeira and Mason Williams.)

The Backup Outfielder

Noel will be on the wildcard game roster but he’s not really a backup outfielder. He’s a pinch-runner and that’s all. (The scouting reports indicate Noel is a pretty good defender, but the Yankees haven’t used him defensively all that much.) The Yankees will still need to carry a legitimate backup outfielder if for no other reason than to replace Beltran for defense in the late innings. Chris Young, who is the only righty hitting outfielder on the roster, held that job all season and I expect him to be on the wildcard roster. I know he’s stumped lately, but there’s no reason to think the Yankees won’t carry Young in October. In fact, I’m not sure how you can look at the 39-man active roster and saying Young doesn’t belong on the wildcard game roster. He’s in.

The Final Roster Spot

We still have one last roster spot to fill. The nine locks above plus Ackley, Refsnyder, Ryan, Noel, and Young gets us to 14 position players. I suppose the Yankees could carry eleven pitchers, but I doubt it. It was hard enough coming up with ten pitchers worth a spot on the wildcard roster. One last position player makes sense.

There’s no point in carrying three catchers, so Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez are out. The remaining candidates are Jose Pirela and Slade Heathcott, assuming Drew is indeed done for the year. With Refsnyder on the roster, there’s no need for Pirela, another righty hitter. Yeah, Pirela can play the outfield if necessary, but he’s an emergency option out there only. Noel and Ackley are available as emergency outfielders. I also think Pirela would have played more this month if he was a serious wildcard game roster candidate.

Slade. (Presswire)
Slade. (Presswire)

That leaves it between Heathcott and a possibly but not likely healthy Drew. If Drew is not over high dizziness/concussion symptoms by next week, this questioned gets answered for us. In the unlikely event Drew is healthy though, would it make sense to carry another infielder or another outfielder? I think an extra outfielder makes more sense. Between Ackley, Refsnyder, and Ryan, you’ve got the second base starter and two backups. The only backup outfielder is Young considering Noel’s job is pinch-running.

Heathcott gives the Yankees another potential pinch-runner — he’s no Rico, but he’s faster than Young or Refsnyder — and another quality defender, as well as a left-handed bat on the bench. In fact, Drew and Slade are the only possible lefty bats off the bench, and one’s hurt. Besides, if Drew is healthy, it’s Ryan or Heathcott, not Drew or Heathcott. I’d take Heathcott over Ryan.

With Slade on the roster, the Yankees would have two backup infielders even without Drew (or Ryan), and Heathcott at least has a chance to contribute offensively and defensively. I mean, if Drew’s healthy and on the roster, what’s the point of Ryan? What does he offer in a winner-take-all game? I’d expect neither guy to actually play in the game, but, if pressed into action, it’s easy to see Slade having more potential impact than Ryan.

So after all of that, here’s the 25-man wildcard game roster we’ve kinda sorta pieced together today:

Catchers (2) Infielders (7) Outfielders (6) RHP (5) LHP (5)
McCann Bird Gardner Masahiro Tanaka (SP) Andrew Miller
Murphy Ackley Ellsbury Dellin Betances Justin Wilson
Gregorius Beltran Adam Warren Chasen Shreve
Headley Young Andrew Bailey Chris Capuano
A-Rod (DH) Heathcott Nova/Severino/Pineda CC Sabathia
Refsnyder Noel (PR)
Drew/Ryan

Remember, the Yankees can change their 25-man roster prior to the ALDS should they advance, and they’ll have to change it too. They’d need to get more starting pitchers on the roster. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. One thing at a time.

That appears to be the best 25-man roster the Yankees can carry in the wildcard game. Maybe not the most talented, but the most useful given the circumstances. We’re not planning for a best-of-five or best-of-seven series. It’s one game. One stupid little game where anything can happen. Hopefully Girardi won’t have to use anyone beyond the nine starting position players, Beltran’s defensive replacement, Tanaka, and the big three relievers. That’s the best case scenario. If the Yankees need to dip any deeper into their wildcard game roster than that, then, well, just hang on tight.

Yanks have found a productive new second base platoon late in the season

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

For much of the summer, we couldn’t help but focus on second base. The Yankees are locked into their starters at every other position and Stephen Drew was unproductive for long stretches at a time, so finding an upgrade was a reasonable idea. Whether that upgrade was Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela or a trade target, it made sense to look for a new second baseman.

Instead, the Yankees stuck with Drew all summer and he’s put up a .201/.271/.381 (76 wRC+) batting line in 428 plate appearances. That’s a long leash. Drew platooned with Brendan Ryan for much of the second half, and while Drew’s production ticked up later in the summer, the No. 9 spot in the lineup was still an eyesore. For the most part the rest of the offense picked up the slack, allowing the Yankees to carry the Drew/Ryan platoon and their defense.

The second base picture has changed over the last two weeks or so. Trade deadline pickup Dustin Ackley, who got hurt almost immediately after being acquired, returned from the DL and hit his way into a regular lineup spot. Ackley has been really awesome in an extremely limited number of at-bats. He’s holding his own in the field — to be fair, he is being lifted for a defensive replacement on the regular — and taking aim for the short porch. It’s working.

Ackley has wrestled the starting job away from Drew, and lately Joe Girardi has been using Refsnyder against lefties. Refsnyder started against the three White Sox lefties over the weekend, started against Eduardo Rodriguez last night, and will probably start against Wade Miley and Rich Hill in the coming days as well. Refsnyder has hit in his recent limited action — 5-for-12 (.417) with a double — even though the Yankees aren’t scoring a ton of runs.

“It’s a kid that in the past has swung pretty good against left-handers and since we’re seeing so many of them, I put him in there. He’s done a decent job,” said Girardi to Ryan Hatch. Outside of a four-game cameo back in July, the Yankees didn’t Refsnyder much of a chance this season, not even earlier this month, but they’re doing it now and it’s better late than never. Ackley? He took the job from Drew almost immediately after getting healthy. That happened even before Drew’s bout with dizziness and a possible concussion.

The Yankees have gone from six games up in the AL East on August 1st to five games down today, and a tumble down the standings like that wouldn’t have been prevented by changing second baseman earlier this season. Too much other stuff has gone wrong. The new second base platoon can help the Yankees going forward though, and at this point of the season that means October. The Yankees will clinch a wildcard spot in the coming days in all likelihood.

“I think it’s too early (to talk about the postseason second base situation). We’ve liked the way (Refsnyder)’s swung the bat and defensively he’s done a good job, so I’ll continue to give him more opportunities,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings over the weekend. My guess is lefty or righty, Ackley will start the wildcard game at second base because Girardi will simply go with his best players. It would be a real shock to me if the kid with 30-something big league at-bats started a winner-take-all game.

The offense has been stumbling of late and, for once, it’s not because of second base. The unproductive Drew/Ryan platoon has been replaced by Ackley/Refsnyder, who’ve both hit. Will it last? Who knows. It’s working right now and that’s all that matters. The season ends Sunday and the postseason is right around the corner. It only has to work for a few more weeks. The Yankees finally have a new second base platoon, and it’s better late than never.