Greg Bird made his rehab debut on Wednesday, and so far in two games, he has gone 2-for-6 with a strikeout and a run batted in. At the minor league level this season, Bird has been hitting .250/.411/.341 in 44 at bats, with no home runs and five strikeouts – all in an attempt to work on his swing. If all goes according to plan, the Yankees will have another of their young power core return to their lineup.
But the question is how long will Bird last? After an impressive debut in 2015 in which he batted .258/.358/.445 with six home runs in 212 plate appearances, Bird was named the heir to the oft-injured Mark Teixeira. Furthermore, he was the first of the aptly named Baby Bombers to graduate the farm system and reach the major-league club. With him cementing the cold corner and, provided that his power also translated to the majors, Joe Girardi would be able to add youth to his roster.
Then 2016 came along and Bird lost the entire season to a season-ending shoulder injury which required surgery. During the season, seven men fielded the cold corner: Teixeira, Rob Refsnyder, Tyler Austin, Dustin Ackley, Billy Butler, Ike Davis, and Chris Parmalee. Collectively, they hit .222/.301/.358 with 23 HRs in 828 plate appearances. Bird was set to hit .247/.338/.455 with 11 HRs in 250 plate appearances according to PECOTA’s 2016 projections – way better than what the actual first basemen hit.
Even though Bird was poised to replace Teixeira, it was expected that he would inherit all the power and batting skills sans the injury track record. An injury in the minors forced him to miss a month of playing time, but it seemed an isolated incident. The loss of a season was a larger red flag, and the start of the 2017 season pointed to something not being right.
Bird held an abysmal batting line, was sent down to the minors to work things out, and on June 15th, was placed on the 60-day DL after it was determined that he would need ankle surgery.
Going forward, the Yankees currently have multiple options to fill in at first base, starting with Chase Headley. After him, they have Garrett Cooper and Tyler Austin. Besides Cooper, who has looked good in a small sample, the Yankees have no real prospect or player who they can write into the lineup at first base. The question is, given Bird’s injury record and poor track record, will they still stick with him?
For the short term, they might. Cashman may keep Bird for the upcoming 2018 season in hopes that he returns to his 2015 form. But Bird will be three years older, with almost two seasons lost to injury. This begs the thought that he will be kept on the 40-man roster until a new replacement can be obtained during the 2018 season.
Another option is that the Yankees stick to their revolving door of first basemen until either Mike Ford or Ryan McBroom gain more reps in the minors and prove that they could stick with the major league club. Either one of these players could see some time as a September call-up – an audition for a 2018 promotion. But prospects are not always capable of making the jump from double-A to the majors without spending time in triple-A, so they’re realistic contributions might not be seen until 2019.
Until a more suitable option is acquired, chances are Bird keeps his job when he returns from his rehab assignment. After that, it will be a matter of time until he’s part of a trade or released.
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