Looks like we can consider Rob Refsnyder the early favorite for the 25th roster spot now. After moving him to second base when he was drafted, staying committed to making him an everyday second baseman for the last few years, and presumably shopping him as such on the trade market, the Yankees have switched course on Refsnyder and will try him at third base this spring. Team decision makers held a meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the possibility, decided it was worth a shot, and Refsnyder worked out at third base during the first full-squad workout yesterday. The move was somewhat unexpected considering the team's recent commitment to keeping Refsnyder at second and previous comments by Brian Cashman stating the team would not consider moving Refsnyder from that spot. But as the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention and finding a reliable backup third baseman is a major necessity this spring. Chase Headley showed a lot of disconcerting signs in his performance last year and there isn't another viable backup anywhere on the current roster. Alex Rodriguez and his old hips are staying at DH, Starlin Castro is going to get some time at third as well to see if he can handle the position, and Dustin Ackley looks like he's going to be primarily a first baseman/5th outfielder. The Yankees really have nothing to lose trying Refsnyder at third, nor does Refsnyder. Given the team's acquisition of Castro, this could be Refsnyder's best chance at nailing down a Major League job.
He will have to prove that he can play the position, however, and there are a few things working against him in that department. Third base is about quick movements and reaction times, skills that don't come into play a lot at second base or in right field. Typically you want a guy with a strong arm at third base to make the long throws across the diamond, and Refsnyder is not known to have a strong arm. His throwing arm might be the weakest part of his defensive game, which is part of the reason he got moved to second base in the first place. He won't have to worry about foot placement and movement around the bag to turn a double play, but third base and second base are completely different worlds and it's going to be a challenge for Refsnyder to show he's got what it takes to handle the hot corner in a short amount of time.
Offensively this would no doubt be an upgrade for the Yankee bench. We've already seen a small snapshot of what Refs can do with the bat at the Major League level, and his expected production from the 25th roster spot would likely be much higher than that of a Ronald Torreyes or a Pete Kozma. Refsnyder's bat has always been what's carried him through the Minors and there's no reason to expect that to change even with another positional switch.
If there's one gripe I have with the move, it's the timing. In a perfect world, I think a team should have decisions like these made a little more in advance of camp opening so that the player involved can know what's expected of him and be better prepared for the switch, especially a young player like Refsnyder. I have to imagine showing up at the complex on Wednesday and finding out you're going to be playing third base on Thursday adds a little more stress to one's routine. At the same time, we know the Yankees have shopped Refsnyder before and were surely shopping him this offseason. His trade value as a potential starting second baseman is much higher than his value as a utility guy, but clearly nothing materialized on that front. If you aren't sold on somebody as an everyday player and you can't find another taker for him in a deal that you like, you might as well hold onto him and see if you can expand his skill set a little more to make him more useful to the team.
That's what the Yankees are trying to do with Refsnyder now and Spring Training is the perfect time to try something like this. If he bobbles a few balls and can't make good throws across the diamond, so what? The Yankees would know he can't handle the position, they'd send him back to Triple-A to start as the second baseman there, and look to other options to fill their backup third base need. It's an experiment that could help improve the team and could give Refsnyder a better chance at contributing, so I'm on board with it. He's going to have a lot of eyes on him now as this plays out over the next few weeks. Let's see how he responds.