Imagining How The Infield Rotation Would Work Without Upgrades (Except For Shortstop)

RodRefPrad Despite having no starting shortstop, no definite starting second or third baseman, and a starting first baseman who's physically devolving into a part-time player, the Yankees have made no significant moves to improve their Opening Day infield so far this offseason.  Most of what we've heard about with regards to their infield plans involves what they're NOT doing.  They're not pursuing Chase Headley as aggressively as they were and they're apparently not willing to give him more than a 3-year deal.  They're reportedly not interested in Asdrubal Cabrera or Jed Lowrie, and they weren't interested in Pablo Sandoval or Hanley Ramirez before they signed.  They're not making much progress on the shortstop trade market, and there has been virtually no talk connecting them to Stephen Drew.

We've become conditioned to expect that most of what makes its way into the Yankee rumor mill during hot stove season is not the complete truth.  There's always the bigger plan, or the surprise move they're working on behind the scenes, or the leverage they're trying to gain over a player, or the influence they're trying to exert over another team.  The Yankee front office has built up a well-deserved reputation of smokescreening their true intentions, to the point that it has made it almost impossible to take any hot stove report about them at face value.

Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.  But with how slowly they've moved thus far, there is a non-zero chance that there is no smokescreen here and the Yankees really aren't planning on upgrading at second or third base.  Shortstop is an absolute must.  Even if it's a move as small as plucking another cheap guy off the bottom of the FA pile, they can't roll into Opening Day with just Brendan Ryan back there.  At second and third, however, it's a different story.  There are enough warm bodies with some talent present that they don't necessarily NEED to sign somebody.  They could attempt to work with what they've got.  Going off nothing more than my own hypothetical ramblings, here's how that might work.

The Yankees would open the season with Martin Prado at second, Alex Rodriguez at third, and Jose Pirela as the Prado Jr. do-all bench infielder.  I say that knowing that all their public statements on A-Rod indicate they don't see him as an everyday third baseman anymore and would prefer to use him mostly at DH.  I also say that knowing that the Yankees have been in contact with A-Rod, they know what he's been doing to stay in shape, they're probably going to give him another full physical, and they really have nothing to lose by trying him out at third.  If he can play there a few days a week, great.  If he can't and he gets hurt again, so be it.  That's the situation they've put themselves in for the next 3 years, so they might as well try for the best case scenario outcome where he can play the field more and keep the DH spot open as much as possible.

On days when A-Rod is either DH'ing or getting the full day off, Joe could move Prado to third base and play Pirela at second.  That would be a defensive upgrade, as Prado is regarded as a better defensive third baseman than second baseman and Pirela is adequate at second.  The power potential in the lineup would take a hit, but at his age and coming off a layoff as long as he had, who even knows what A-Rod is capable of anymore?

In the event A-Rod hits the DL, that would be the perfect time to call up Rob Refsnyder and see what he's got as the second baseman of the future.  Prado stays at third, Refsnyder becomes the new starting second baseman, and Pirela goes back to being the flex bench guy.  Unlike those who were calling for Refsnyder to be called up this past season or are calling for him to be the Opening Day starter next year, I have no problem with giving him a little more time in the Minors.  Yeah he raked in Triple-A, but he's still pretty raw defensively at second.  He could definitely use more time to work on his defensive skills before stepping up to the show full-time.  If that time is a few weeks, a few months, whatever.  It's time well spent to prepare him to be successful and one last chance to evaluate him as an upper-level prospect and confirm that his hot hitting in 2014 was legit.

Keep in mind that Refsnyder is not a big time prospect in the overall MLB landscape.  He's not even the prospect Robinson Cano was when he got called up, even if the potential situation that would lead to him breaking in is very similar.  Cano was considered a better offensive prospect with greater future power potential, and even though he was generally evaluated as a below-average defensive player during his time in the Minors, scouts did think he had the potential to be good.  Refsnyder's current below-average defensive evaluation comes with an average ceiling, and there's nothing I've read or heard that makes it seem like that ceiling is likely to be reached.

That said, Refsnyder is one of the top prospects in the organization and the closest position player to making it to the Major League club.  If the Yankees are interested in making that happen this season, the best way to do it is by not doing anything on the FA market and going with what they have.  The injuries are going to come from A-Rod, the lack of production could come from Pirela.  The opportunity is right there.  The team has talked about the need to get more from their farm system for a few years now.  Here's the chance to have the actions back up the talk.

If the FO shot callers are serious about getting younger and committed to the idea of giving their young players chances to play, then they could pass on all the current FA targets and roll with the players they have.  Between A-Rod, Prado, Pirela, and Refsnyder, they are at least 2 deep at second and third with an emergency option for each spot in case of injury and/or lack of production.  When you think about it that way, it makes it easier to see the Yankees' current slow play strategy not as a smokescreen, but as the actual plan.  Unless of course that's exactly what they wanted me to think and I just double reverse smokescreened myself.  There's a non-zero chance of that too.