Water is wet; Greg Bird out 6-8 weeks with bone spurs
Bird only played in 48 games for the Yankees in 2017
My friend and colleague Dan Yanofsky once said to me, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” While he can’t take all the credit for that quote, neither he nor Lorenzo Anello are wrong when speaking of Greg Bird.
Bird is an immensely talented player with a sweet lefty swing that’s perfect for Yankee Stadium. He is a vacuum at first base with a great glove, and he will hopefully be a future All-Star. Unfortunately, he’s better off starting Spring Training in a bubble, as he can’t stay healthy.
In yet another round of unforeseen injuries, Bird elected for surgery on his ankle to remove bone spurs. This surgery will keep him away from baseball activities for 6-8 weeks, which means he probably won’t join the Yankees until mid-June.
This is the third time in three years that Bird will be sidelined for an extended period of time. First, he tore his labrum in his rookie year. Last year, he had what seems to be the first basemen curse of fouling a ball off his ankle, a la Mark Teixeira. He never fully recovered from that injury, and that ankle looks to be the same one that’s giving him trouble now.
As well prepared as the Yankees are to replace him for about two months (we’ll get to that in a moment), not having Bird in that potent lineup leaves a much bigger void than one would think. Having Bird in the five hole right behind Sanchez makes pitchers think twice about walking Sanchez, & protects Didi Gregorius batting sixth.
As said before, this isn’t an ideal situation for the Yankees, but given Bird’s injury history they were well aware that they needed at least one, if not two insurance policies. They have plenty of options:
Neil Walker at first
Neil Walker is a second baseman by trade, but is also a good defensive infielder and can put on that first baseman’s mitt anytime the Yankees need him. Whether or not they’re going to give the full-time gig to him is the question. It makes the most logical sense, given Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes can platoon second base and fill in at third if Brandon Drury needs a day off. They have a backup first baseman in Tyler Austin, but Walker makes this lineup more potent.
Tyler Austin as the heir apparent
The most obvious choice would be to make Tyler Austin the everyday first baseman with Walker, Drury and even Austin Romine giving him spells against certain righties. Austin is a good, not great first baseman. He has a solid scoop, but not a terribly big range. He has some pop but not enough to play 162 games. Austin is a serviceable MLB backup first baseman. He’s not the sexy choice, but he’s the one that makes the most sense.
The Miguel Andujar experience?
Are you experienced? In all seriousness, Andujar took a long time to get acclimated to third base. He has about zero experience at first. However, if the kid can learn the hot corner in a relatively quick manner, who says no to first? Andujar will definitely NOT set the world on fire with his defense, which is obviously important for a position where you touch a live ball a good amount of time. However, if Brian Cashman really thinks this kid deserves a spot on the big league roster, he may just think of throwing him at first to see what he can do. We all know how powerful his bat is.
Greg Bird is a huge loss to this team, regardless of how loaded they are. You never want to lose one of your core guys before the season even starts. No one can say it’s all that surprising, but still a huge loss. No one can also say that the Yankees didn’t properly prepare for his absence, as they did a good job having a few guys who can fill in for the first few months. Let’s all hope that Greg Bird will come out of this with no lingering effects. Nobody wants him to turn into Nick Johnson, not even Nick himself.