Now that Luke Voit has found his groove, it’s time for the New York Yankees to move on from former top prospect Greg Bird.
It’s time for Greg Bird to leave the Bronx nest.
Any New York Yankees fan worth their weight in gold knows this day is probably coming. Luke Voit is having some great at-bats and proving himself to be a balanced hitter. DJ LeMahieu’s versatility and strong contact hitting make him a viable option when Voit needs a day off from the field.
Bird, meanwhile, is on the injured list (again) with a foot injury (again) and is expected to be out until May or June. He was batting .171 with a single home run and RBI before he got hurt. Even worse, his strikeout rate (K%) stands at a horrific 39 percent compared to a walk rate (BB%) of 14.6 percent.
He’s 26 years old and can’t stay healthy, which means it’s time for the Yankees to make the tough decision and wave good-bye.
A prospect's fall
Oh, how everyone fell in love with Greg Bird early on! He posted a line of .277/.356/.469 across Double and Triple-A with 12 home runs and 52 RBI in 2015. Thus, when he was promoted on Aug. 13, everyone was excited. An injury to Mark Teixeira a few days later made Bird the everyday first baseman and the rest is history.
In just 46 games, Bird hit .261 with 11 homers and 31 RBI. Teixeira still had a year left on his contract, but Bird made it clear he wasn’t going away quietly.
Except, Bird did go away quietly. A torn labrum in his left shoulder cost him all of 2016. He hit an eye-popping .451 in spring training the following year before fouling a ball off his ankle right before the regular season.
That injury has since become a Katz’s Deli sandwich-sized burden on Bird’s work to advance his career. He has hit just .194 with 21 home runs and 67 RBI between the 2017 season and now, appearing in just 140 games over that stretch. He even told Lindsey Adler of The Athletic his foot was never right last year:
The injury hindered Bird at the plate and at the bag as the season went on, keeping him from putting his full weight on his front foot as he completed his signature long, lifting swing.
“Through rehabs last year I always told myself like, ‘I’ll finish strong,’” Bird said this week. But to his anguish, that would not turn out to be the case.
Bird may have flown high at one point, but his wings have since been clipped.
Use the force, Luke!
Meanwhile, Greg Bird’s losses on the field have been Luke Voit’s gains. The two competed for the starting first baseman’s job in spring training. Voit easily had the upper hand after hitting .333 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI in 39 games with the Yankees in 2018. Still, thanks to a plethora of injuries, both made the Opening Day roster and got off to sluggish starts.
Fast forward to Bird tearing his plantar fascia, and Voit has since looked like a different player. He’s batting .357 with four home runs and 12 RBI since Bird went down, not to mention putting together great at-bats. He’s sporting an impressive line of .283/.397/.538 on the season.
This isn’t just a hot streak for the ages like last year, folks, because now we can call Voit the real deal. His K% is 24.8 percent, but his BB% is respectable at 13.2%. Per Fangraphs, is hard contact rate is an impressive 38.9 percent and his home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB) is at 33.3 percent.
He isn’t a great fielder but given the Yankees’ desperate need for an effective first baseman these years past, his bat more than makes up for it.
This puts the Yankees in a difficult position. The team has a ridiculous amount of depth, but Bird is expected back in a few weeks. The easy decision would be to send him to the minors, but Spotrac lists his salary at $1.2 million.
Granted, that isn’t a large amount by any stretch of the imagination, but let’s go back to DJ LeMahieu. He leads the team with a .310 batting average and can play multiple positions. He was supposed to be the Yankees’ super-utilityman this year but has become an everyday player thanks to the injuries. The man has played every infield position except shortstop for the Yankees this year.
He only has 16 career innings at first base but LeMahieu is such a natural in the field, he could easily pick up the basics on the fly.
That leaves Greg Bird as the odd man out. I hate to say it, folks, but trading him may be the best option. He’s still young at 26 years old and is a powerful lefty bat when healthy. Bird can also hold his own in the field, so the ever-analytical Yankees have a tough decision to make on his future when he comes back.
Greg Bird’s return may be inevitable, but Luke Voit is Iron Man. He has proven more reliable across the board since being acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals last year and nothing suggests it will suddenly stop.
Naturally, since Yankees fans demand results, Voit has been fully embraced while Bird is yesterday’s news. Fans shout “LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUKE” at him, whether he’s simply walking up to bat or after he has launched a ball into the seats. His little bunny hop on fly balls is reminiscent of Sammy Sosa.
And that shouldn’t discount anything Greg Bird has done in pinstripes. He’s a hard worker and his clutch home run off Andrew Miller in the 2017 playoffs still rings in every fan’s memories.
Sadly, the Yankees are in win-now mode and Bird can’t contribute from the injured list save for a few supportive cheers. It was a fun ride, but it’s time for him to get off.
If the Yankees are serious about winning, they’ll cut their losses on Bird. Because at this point, do they have a choice?