Posted on November 21, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
This is the time of year when most teams are adding to their roster. However, the New York Yankees have gone in the other direction, removing two long-term members of their team. Wednesday night, the Bronx Bombers officially released outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and designated for assignment first baseman Greg Bird. Both moves were made to help create room on the 40-man roster for prospects the Yankees want to protect from next month’s Rule 5 Draft.
The Yankees releasing Ellsbury isn’t that surprising of a move. For man fans, the move was long overdue. The 36-year-old has largely been a disappointment since signing a 7-year, $153 million deal with the team prior to the 2014 season. After underperforming for a few seasons, Ellsbury has sat out each of the last two seasons because of injury. He hasn’t played since the 2017 season and there was no guarantee he would be healthy enough to play in 2020.
Even with outfielder Aaron Hicks set to miss at least the first half of the 2020 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Yankees still don’t see Ellsbury as part of their plans. Of course, releasing him means the Yankees will be on the hook for the $26 million that’s still left on his contract. Whether he gets a chance with another big league club given his injury history and age is questionable at best.
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Meanwhile, the Yankees parting ways with Bird is a little more surprising. He offered immediate production when he first came to the big leagues in 2015. However, Bird has struggled to stay healthy, playing in just 140 games over the past three seasons because of a myriad of injuries. He played in just 10 games in 2019. On the rare occasions that he’s been able to play, Bird has struggled, hitting under .200 in his limited action in each of the last three seasons.
“He’s got a great swing if he can stay healthy,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said of Bird last week. “We all know what he’s capable of doing, but unfortunately we haven’t had a chance to unwrap that present because the injuries have just piled up. I still believe in the talent, and let’s see what else happens in the future.”
With Bird missing so much time due to injury, the Yankees have found other solutions at first base. Luke Voit has produced at a high level since coming to the Yankees in a trade midway through the 2018 season. Mike Ford provided a nice left-handed complement to Voit this past season, a role that Bird could have filled. The Yankees also have utility man DJ LeMahieu as another option at first base. With those three in the fold, there’s little reason for the Yankees to sit around and wait for Bird to get healthy and recapture the form he had in 2015.
At age 27, Bird will likely get a chance with another team. If he can stay healthy, he surely has the ability to at least be a platoon player in the majors. Whether he can actually live up to the promise he once had remains to be seen. The only thing for certain is that the Yankees no longer have a need or room for him or Ellsbury on their roster.