- Bradley Locker
Why the Yankees Should DFA Greg Bird
The drama is mounting. It’s the bottom of the 7th inning at Yankee Stadium in Game 3 of the 2017 ALDS. Andrew Miller, a former Yankee, faces highly-touted Yankees prospect Greg Bird at the plate.
Miller hurls a 96 mile-per-hour fastball in the upper portion of the zone. Bird, much to Miller’s consternation, sends the ball deep into the night—and right field—to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the matchup, a win that would give them the momentum to rattle off 2 more victories and ultimately prevail over the Cleveland Indians.
On October 8, 2017, Yankee Nation could not have been more infatuated with the lefty-swinging first baseman. But that moment will almost certainly be one of the zeniths of Bird’s career—his tenure has seen an unfortunately precipitous drop.
Now, almost 2 years later, a divorce between the Yankees and Bird is coherent for several reasons: Bird’s injury history and lack of production, Luke Voit’s excellence and the need for a fresh start.
The simple fact that Bird has been unable to stay on the field should be a major turn away. Organizations never want to hastily give up on players—unless they are the Arizona Cardinals, I guess—but Bird’s injury history should give GM Brian Cashman nightmares.
In 2016, Bird tore his labrum, had shoulder surgery and was sidelined all season. In spring training of 2017, a foul ball off of Bird’s right leg covertly caused him to stay on the (then-)disabled list until August; for the 48 games (postseason included) in which he suited up, he hit .190.
In 2011, the Yankees took C/1B Greg Bird in the 5th round. Considering their aspirations of success, Bird could hinder the Bronx Bombers' long-term progress if they don't move on.
In 2018, Bird’s year with the fewest maladies, he had ankle surgery and was able to play starting in late May yet had only 11 HRs and 38 RBIs in 82 games. And this season, Bird tore his left plantar fascia and, per many experts, has no timetable for return.
Listen, players get injured—it’s an inherent part of sports. Will the Yankees trade Aaron Judge because he missed extensive periods of time the last 2 seasons? Absolutely not. But Bird is far more concerning because of his sparse hitting and general floundering.
Bird’s strikeouts per season is as follows:
2015: 53 Ks in 46 games
2017: 42 Ks in 48 games
2018: 78 Ks in 82 games
2019: 16 Ks in 10 games
For his whole career, Bird averages 1.01 strikeouts per game, which doesn’t sound awful. However, Joey Gallo, a known home run-punch out hitter (at least until this season), has averaged 1.4 Ks per game.
Furthermore, the Yankees need to relinquish the opportunity to retain Bird because they have found a more-than-capable successor in Luke Voit.
Since swapping Chasen Shreve, Giovanny Gallegos and international money for Voit, the former Cardinals prospect has absolutely raked: he has a .291 average, 25 homers and 67 RBIs in 83 games in pinstripes. This year alone, relative to all AL first basemen, Voit’s 28 runs rank first, his 12 dingers are 4th, his 34 RBIs are 2nd and his .373 OBP is fifth—in my mind, he should be an excellent candidate to make the All-Star Game at Progressive Field.
Voit has proven that his savant-like success in 2018 wasn't a fluke. Moreover, the raucous chants of “LUUUKE!” that ring throughout stadiums across the country are a testament to how much he has endeared himself to Yankee faithful.
Luke Voit has accrued a 0.7 WAR so far in 2019. His scalding bat—and raw emotion, as pictured above—should make him an integral part of the Yankees' lineup for years to come.
Might Bird potentially be a better fielder? Possibly, but Voit only has 3 errors this year and has shown flashes of brilliance at first. Could Bird help to balance out a righty-heavy lineup? Presumably, but not if he continues to hit porously and stay on the injured list; also, capable lefty hitter Brett Gardner as well as switch hitters Aaron Hicks and Kendrys Morales have galvanized the Yankees' lineup to 4.84 runs per game this year.
At only 26 years old, Bird should still have a lengthy professional career in front of him. But his opportunity with the Yankees looks limited, as Voit has a stranglehold over the 1B position.
Consequently, I think it makes a lot of sense for the Yankees to designate Bird for assignment. Cashman can gauge how much interest Bird garners from other franchises; if all else fails, they can send him down to the minors when he’s healthy or keep him on the 40-man roster and subsequently trade him for a depth acquisition or pitching assistance later on.
Greg Bird has had his signature moments and pinstripe phenomena. But at this point in time, the Yankees would be wise to let him fly away.