Yankees: Blasts From The Past Who Are Doing Well And Not So Well

Yankees: A deal is a deal, but...

Yankees players come and go. Farm system proteges make it to the big club, but they don’t stay. Others get traded away. Catching up with some…

Many consider the Yankees organization to be one of the best in baseball. Yankees GM Brian Cashman is still thought of as a wizard when making trades with other teams.

But not every draft pick pans out. Some die quickly as the competition increases on the way up in the minors. Others make it all the way to the Yankees, only to die a slow death, and eventually, they are released or traded.

At other times, the tightness of a team’s roster causes them to leave a player exposed to the Rule 5 Draft, whereupon they are selected by another team and subsequently lost to the Yankees.

Teams often make mistakes in evaluating players, and the Yankees are not immune to making them.

Following are some of those decisions made by the Yankees (good and bad) with a brief “where are they now?” update on each.

Ronald Torreyes, Utility Infielder

Ronald Torreyes, New York Yankees Role Player Photo Credit: New York Post
Ronald Torreyes, New York Yankees Role Player Photo Credit: New York Post

Ronald Torreyes is a journeyman utility infielder who currently plays for the Philadelphia Phillies. He played for the Yankees from 2016-2018, gaining recognition and value when he played mostly shortstop for injured Did Gregorius in 2017, appearing in 108 games and batting .292.

Following the 2018 season, the New York Yankees traded 2B Ronald Torreyes to Chicago Cubs for Player To Be Named Later.

Since then, he has been a free-agent twice, signed by the Minnesota Twins and Phillies, but was never brought back by the Yankees, despite his versatility.

Torreyes has continued to show his hitting prowess with the Phillies, going 2-6 in his last three games, with two RBI, one of which was a walk-off single that gave the Phillies a win last night.

Michael Pineda, Starting Pitcher, Minnesota Twins

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Michael Pineda, Minnesota Twins

Michael Pineda came to the Yankees in January 2012 via trade. The Yankees traded highly touted catcher Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for Pineda and RHP Jose Campos.

The Yankees used Pineda as a starting pitcher for the next four years with mixed results. Inconsistent became his middle name, and no one connected to the Yankees seemed to have a solution.

However, it became a moot point when Pineda declared for free agency, signing with the Minnesota Twins in December 2017.

Almost immediately, it looked like Pineda was going to be one of those, “Oh crap, why did we let him go” affairs as Pineda zoomed off to an 11-5, 4.01 ERA season with the Twins.

Since then, it’s mostly been smoke and mirrors for Pineda, showing flashes of periodic brilliance but never settling in as a pitcher who has “figured it out.”

Numerous trips to the Injured List (IL) have followed him throughout his career, and that is where he rests today, on the Twins 10-day IL.

Rob Refsnyder, Minnesota Twins Outfielder

Rob Refsnyder, Minnesota Twins
Rob Refsnyder, Minnesota Twins

Rob Refsnyder was once “It” for the Yankees. Hailed as a pure natural hitter who could play a decent second base, his career came to an abrupt end in July 2017 when the Yankees designated him for assignment. A few days later, The Yankees sent Refsnyder to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 1B Ryan McBroom.

Labeled as one of those players with the sweetest of swings who hammers out base hits just by getting out of bed in the morning, Refsnyder could never reach the mark with the Yankees or any of the teams who have signed him since.

Refsnyder’s journey has taken him to Texas, Arizona, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota. Only 30, it seems like he’s been around forever.

If this is a fairy tale, then maybe Rob Refsnyder has found a niche with the Twins, where he has six hits in nine at-bats, including four two nights ago, giving the Twins a much-needed win over the White Sox.

A question that looms in the background, though, is, has any team (including the Yankees) ever given Rob Refsnyder a fair shot – considering he has only 406 official at-bats in the major leagues?

Greg Bird, Albequerque Isotopes Rockies Triple-A Team

Greg Bird, Albequerque Isototpes 2021
Greg Bird, Albequerque Isototpes 2021

Because the history and the wounds are so fresh, most Yankees fans remember Greg Bird and his rise and fall with the Yankees.

The victim of multiple foot and heel surgeries, back and forth stints returning from rehabs, the Yankees dire need for his left-handed bat that could punch home run after home run into The Porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, it was all for naught.

Designated for assignment in November 2019 by the Yankees, Bird declared for free agency.

In February 2020, theTexas Rangers signed free agent 1B Greg Bird to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. Given a good look in Spring Training, Bird did not make the team, spending all of 2020 at the Rangers alternate training site.

Again a free agent, the Colorado Rockies signed Bird to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. Bird did not make the team, and he now plays for the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Rockies Triple-A team in the International League.

Still only 28, Bird is trying to find his way in baseball and is batting .220, with a single home run and 6 RBI in 41 at-bats for the Isotopes.

With Nate Lowe, the Rangers current first baseman ahead of him and having a good year (.261, .365 OBP, 7 HR, and 26 RBI), there does appear much of a chance for Bird to play in the major leagues this year, or possibly ever again.

James Kaprielian, Starting Pitcher, Oakland A’s

James Kapreilian, Oakland A's
James Kapreilian, Oakland A’s

James Kaprielian was pure gold in the Yankees farm system when the Oakland A’s traded Sonny Gray to the pitching-starved Yankees for CF Dustin Fowler, RHP James Kaprielian, and SS Jorge Mateo.

Yankees fans lined up on both sides, castigating Brian Cashman for decimating the farm system, but also with the hope that Gray was the guy who would pitch the Yankees to that all-elusive 28th World Title.

As Gray took on the persona of a deer caught in the headlights of the Big Apple, we need not repeat what followed, leading to an adios, sayonara, good-bye when the Yankees traded him to the Cincinnati Reds, where ironically he continues to thrive.

But the main target in the trade for Oakland (clearly) was James Kaprielian, whom the A’s saw as a mainstay in their rotation after a couple of “tuning-up” years in the minors.

Alas, and who knows, maybe the Yankees saw it coming, but since the trade, Kaprielian has been down with injuries and subsequent rehab to the point where he finally made his first start as an Oakland A the other day.

Expressing to the A’s (perhaps) with a – “thanks for hanging in there for all this time with me” – Kaprielian tossed five innings of one-run ball, surrendering four-hit while striking out six to earn his first win of 2021.

Could/Would the Yankees have waited that long? Probably not, but it’ll be interesting to see if the A’s send Kaprielian to the mound when they visit Yankee Stadium on June 18-20 to face the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2015 College draft (16th overall)…

Yankees: A Look At Today In The Same Light

It goes without saying the Yankees are going to be players as the trade deadline comes closer. Their most immediate need is for a left-handed power bat to offset a decidedly right-handed lineup and takes little or no advantage of Yankee Stadium as their home ballpark.

But as we know, to get something, you have to give something, leaving open the question of who the Yankees might trade this year – to invite a similar story with different names down the road.

Who will it be? Estevan Florial, who lit it up at Double-A and would be playing for the Yankees today, if not for a rules gaffe by Brian Cashman, leaving him at Triple-A for X number of games before the Yankees can bring him up to the big club?

Or maybe Miguel Andujar still has trade value. Still, he’s also a misfit with the Yankees and DJ LeMahieu covering second base and Gio Urshela reaching All-Star recognition at third base (there, I said it for the first time).

Or God forbid, Brian Cashman can dig into the stockpile of Yankees pitching prospects, dangling Michael King, Albert Abreau, Luis Medina, Nick Nelson, and the list goes on with at least one James Kaprielian in there somewhere.

Looking forward to your comments…

Here’s What Readers Are Saying…

Bruce Kain  We’ve seen old pal Nick Solak the last couple of nights. I remember thinking he could make an MLB roster someday, but I wasn’t broken-hearted when we moved him in the Brandon Drury trade. Nice to see he found a home in Texas… he was never gonna get a chance here.

John Gordon  Yeah the constant changing of players. I’m exhausted of it like so many.

Here’s What Readers Are Saying…

Bruce Sadler The Jesus M for Micheal P was a little better for the Yankees than the Seattle team. Especially since MP is still pitching with the Twins

Bruce Sadler I remember the Boss in the ’80s giving up prospects the Yankees might have for the end of their career players just wanting to be on the Yankees team before they retired


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Steve Contursi
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.