On Monday morning, the New York Yankees were dealt a tough blow when it was announced that first base prospect Greg Bird would be out for the entire 2016 season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Today Bird posted a picture on his Instagram account with him in the hospital looking like he was in good spirits. Let’s hope everything goes well in his recovery and he comes back strong in 2017.
Losing Bird for the 2016 season may not look like a big loss to some seeing as he was projected to begin the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. So why does losing a minor league first baseman hurt the Yankees? The biggest reason is because of the questionable health of both 1B Mark Teixeira and DH Alex Rodriguez.
After being a rock during his first three seasons in pinstripes, Tex hasn’t been able to put a full season together. Last season he was on his way to an MVP-caliber year before a foul ball fractured his leg and ended his campaign. Greg Bird stepped in and did a terrific job making up for Tex’s loss of production. Bird hit 11 home runs with 31 RBI and a .871 OPS in 46 games. He also played a very good first base, which is important when losing the gold glove of Mark Teixeira.
Then there’s ARod who is 40 years old, has had multiple surgies and injuries over the last few years, missed the entire 2014 season due to suspension and who needs a ton of days off throughout the season. Expecting ARod to play 162 games is foolish, especially considering the fact he can’t play the field in National League ballparks. Joe Girardi will give him plenty of days off to try and keep him healthy, but that’s not a guarantee.
Losing Greg Bird for the season takes away the security blanket Brian Cashman and the Yankees had. You hope Teixeira and Rodriguez can stay healthy and productive all season, but the odds are just simply against that happening. Having Bird in Triple-A was the perfect situation for 2016. If one of those two went down, Bird gets called up and steps right in. Now if Tex or ARod gets hurt, the solution is less obvious.
Replacing ARod is an easier task as anybody can DH. Carlos Beltran is basically a DH playing right field, so he would be the natural move. That would also give Girardi the luxury of giving guys half days off like Brian McCann or Jacoby Ellsbury. As far as Tex, the only Plan B the Yankees currently have is Dustin Ackley. While I don’t think signing a 1B to the major league roster is necessary, the Yankees absolutely need to get someone to replace Bird in the minors.
If Mark Teixeira does go down, the Yankees have to have someone in Triple-A ready to come up immediately. It would be wise for Cashman to sign a veteran first baseman to a minor league contract and have him in Scranton as a new insurance policy. Depth is never a bad thing, and losing Bird destroys any depth the Yankees had at first.
Plus, this is a full season that Bird loses in his development. It was basically a given that he would be the Yankees’ starting 1B in 2017 when Tex’s contract ran out. After this injury and losing a whole season, that plan is not so definite anymore.