This was supposed to be a long post analyzing the decision to send Rob Refsnyder down and keep Brendan Ryan up on the active roster. I was going to try to be fair and rational and logical and come up with an explanation that made sense for the team and the players involved. But after thinking about it for the last 18 hours or so, I can't do it. I can't. I really don't have the energy or the desire to try to rationalize this move, and after 18 hours I still can't figure out why the Yankees made it. No matter what way I try to look at the decision, it doesn't make sense to me. Keeping Ryan over Refsnyder makes the team weaker and worse than it was before. Refsnyder might not have the defensive flexibility that Ryan does, but he looked good enough at second base. Wouldn't the team be better off with him at second and Stephen Drew on the bench as the utility infielder? Drew can play second, short, and third base if he needed to, and he can occasionally run into a fastball and hit it over the fence. Ryan doesn't offer that kind of power potential, and at this stage in his career is he really that "elite" of a defensive player anymore? The small sample numbers don't say so, and yet here he is.
If there are trades in the works that involve Refsnyder, fine. I don't have a problem if the Yankees trade him and bring in another, better player to be the everyday second baseman. I'm way past the point of wanting to hold onto every single prospect just because they're prospects. But I fail to see how this move helps build Refsnyder's trade value. Even if he goes back down to Triple-A and tears it up like he was for the next few weeks, he's still going to be the player who essentially got sent down for Brendan Ryan. The Yankees called him up, let him play 4 games, and then sent him down for Ryan. What kind of message does that send to potential trade partners for Refsnyder? "Hey, does anybody want a second baseman who wasn't good enough to stick with our team for a week? Well, I mean, he IS good enough. He's great. He's a great, young ballplayer that we really like. He just didn't have the flexibility we need right now."
To me, the best thing the Yankees could have done was keep Refsnyder up and let him continue to play. If the goal is to move him as part of a package and showcase him as a potential starting second baseman, what better way to do that than by showcasing him as a starting second baseman? Any team that has any interest in Refsnyder already knows what he can do in Triple-A, and there's nothing more he can do down there to convince teams to want him more. If he hits a little over the next few weeks and continues to show that he can handle the position defensively, wouldn't that be a lot more helpful to the trade cause?
To say nothing of the help it would have provided to the winning baseball games cause, which the last time I checked was supposed to be the primary goal of a division-leading team in the middle of July. Even based on the small sample size of minimal production in his 4-game cameo, any sane person has to think that Refsnyder is going to be a better offensive player than Ryan. Him at second and Drew on the bench is a better combination than Drew at second and Ryan on the bench. So at the end of the day, what we're talking about here is a decision by the Yankees to knowingly and willingly weaken their team for the time being. That's not a decision that makes any sense if you're trying to win games.
It is a decision that's become the typical Yankee decision over the past few seasons, however, and that's the really disappointing part. The Yankees still don't appear to have learned their lesson when it comes to hanging onto washed up veterans too long. They should have taken Drew out of the starting lineup a long time ago and didn't. They probably should have jettisoned Ryan completely off the 40-man roster a while ago and didn't. Now they have both of them on the active roster, taking playing time away from what is most likely a better player and doing it under the guise of "wanting to retain depth and flexibility" even though they would have the exact same flexibility with Refsnyder in for Ryan and even though they still have Gregorio Petit and Cole Figueroa on the 40-man roster.
To his credit, Refsnyder seemed to take the decision pretty well yesterday. He said all the right things and statements from Joe and Cash did make it sound like he won't be gone for long if he doesn't end up being traded. This may end up not being a big deal at all and Refsnyder could still work his way into the full-time starting second base role this season. But for now, it's another example of the Yankees' flawed strategy when it comes to managing their roster and building the best team they can, and that's discouraging.