Alfy’s Armchair GM Editorial: How To Deal With Greg Bird


We are introducing a new column here at Yanks Go Yard, Alfy’s Armchair GM. Essentially; once a week I will be taking the role of New York Yankees General Manager to discuss moves the team should be making to ensure both current and long-term success. There are a ton of topics I want to eventually go over, but I will be picking one per week to stay on point and give as much detail as possible.

Gregory Bird was brought to the major league level seemingly with the team knowing Mark Teixeira was about to be hurt. Originally Bird came in to serve as a backup to Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, older players who would no doubt need off-days. Just a few weeks into his stint, Teixeira fouled a ball off his leg, ending his season. In his short time as the starting first baseman for the Yankees he has forced the hand of the team. He cannot go back to the minors in 2016. He has to stay in the Bronx and the team has to make room for him to play every day.

Bird has played in 36 games for the Yankees. In that time he is hitting .256 with 10 home runs, 28 RBI, 22 runs, a .333 OBP and.885 OPS. He has a .297 BABIP, very sustainable, and a WAR of 0.7.  It is also important to note that he averages 4.25 pitches per plate appearance. While he does not have enough appearances to qualify, if he did, he would be ranked 3rd in the American League behind only Mike Trout (4.37) and Carlos Santana (4.29). Fun fact, Brett Gardner currently ranks third at 4.18.

His only downfall is a little bit of his defense. While he has no errors at first, there have been times that he has made the wrong decision and extended innings. Fangraphs breaks fielding plays into 6 possible types: Impossible plays (made 0% of the time), Remote plays (usually made between 1-10% of the time), Unlikely plays (usually made 10-40% of the time), Even plays (usually made 40-60% of the time), Likely plays (made between 60-90% of the time) and Routine plays (made 90-100% of the time. Bird makes 14.3% of remote plays, a bit higher than average, but is currently 0-3 (0%) on unlikely plays. He is right in line with all other types of plays. He needs to spend his offseason improving his defense to a level we are used to seeing from Mark Teixeira.

There are only a few areas that Bird can go. First base is the most obvious, but he is blocked by Teixeira. Teixeira is entering the final year of his 8 year $180M deal. He is owed $23,125,000 this year, an amount that most likely makes it too steep for a team to take him, even with the Yankees paying part of his salary. Even if the Yankees can find a team to take him, Teixeira is protected by the 5/10 Rule meaning because he has been with the Yankees for over 5 years and in baseball for over 10 years he can block any trade.

Rodriguez has two years left in his massive contract. He is owed $21,000,000 in both 2016 and 2017. While he has continued to show power this season, 32 home runs is already his most since hitting 35 in 2008. Like Teixeira, he is protected under the 5/10 Rule. Additionally, Rodriguez is 40 years old. He cannot play the field, and he is generally hated in baseball. Consider him a Yankee through 2017.

Enter Chase Headley. Headley is in his first full season with the Yankees and he has been a little underwhelming. While he has the exact same .262 average he did last season, his OBP has dropped from .371 to .327. His slugging is down to .375. Again, nothing is terrible, but it is all replaceable.

Headley was resigned because of his strong defense. Unfortunately he has not shown that in 2015. He ranks 18th out of 19 qualified third basemen in the major leagues in fielding percentage (.945). His .986 fielding percentage last season would rank him 1st this year. Making throws to first has become an issue at times. It looks more mental than physical, which is actually usually more difficult to fix.

Headley is signed through the 2018 season making $13,000,000 per season. Despite his below average defense and base line hitting he could definitely be traded to the right team. He is not under 5/10 protection and will still be 31 when next season starts. There are plenty of teams that are hurting at third base and can afford his relatively affordable salary. The Indians, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Astros, and Angels all come to mind.

The best way for the team to move forward concerning Bird is to get Rodriguez off the team, keep Headley at 3rd, and allow Teixeira and Bird to share time at first base. This just is not realistic at all. If we are looking for the most realistic way to get Bird into the lineup, it is going to be through the hot corner. Headley will move on to a new team, Bird will spend the off-season learning 3rd base, and the Yankees will be vulnerable all season long. This move leaves the Yankees very thin at both first and third and leaves no room for error until 2017. If they go ahead with this route, there is a lot of pressure on Eric Jagielo to be ready to take over 3rd by 2017.

If I had the power to determine the coming off-season, I would work to move Teixeira, expecting to go to a plan B. If that failed, I would definitely dangle Headley for pitching, both starting and relief. The team really does have 4 players for three spots. If the Yankees have to keep Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Headley, I would be prepared to bench a player making 8 figures just to be sure the $500,000 kid gets a full season of at bats in. After all, the team will be his in 2017 anyway.

More from Yanks Go Yard