Yankees first baseman Greg Bird will have surgery on his ailing right ankle, sidelining him out for 6-8 weeks to begin the season.
With the injury history of the once-heralded Yankees prospect, it might be time for Brian Cashman to look for other long-term first base options.
Bird is entering his fourth season having played a total of 94 career MLB games. In 2016 his season-long injury was somewhat overshadowed by the presence of Mark Teixeira at first base, but last season his absence was definitely felt in the first year post-Tex.
Chris Carter, Matt Holiday, Ji-Man Choi, Tyler Austin and Garret Cooper (just to name a few) all saw time in Bird’s absence and none of them really performed well at all. The first base situation was such a disaster last year that the Yanks used more first baseman than they had in the last 16 years combined (Teixeira and Jason Giambi eras).
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With the expectations for the Yanks being so high this year, the team cannot afford to wait for Birdie any longer. This will now be the third consecutive season that he has to sit out with an extensive injury. The front office gave him the benefit of the doubt when he went down last year, but there is no reason to go through this year after year when there is someone like Austin hanging in the balance.
I’m not saying Bird is a bad player because he produces when healthy, but the Yankees cannot keep choosing their first baseman on a game by game basis. It is a pain to see someone of his potential continually go down, but his development has been far too hindered.
Austin has been most affected by this out of anyone. He never seems to get a chance in the majors because of Bird’s potential. The 26-year-old has a total of 51 games of MLB experience. It would be a stretch to say he is even a prospect anymore, more like a veteran minor leaguer.
Thankfully, the Yankees have reinforcements in Austin and Neil Walker, and they won’t have to rely on five different players to field one position. We all know Austin can pound left-handed pitchers, so a platoon with him and Walker would work perfectly. Until Austin can improve his ability to hit right-handed pitching, Walker is more than adequate to take over as the main guy in the short-term. Eventually, Austin can take over as the everyday first baseman.
You have to feel for Bird. He wouldn’t like anything more than to just play ball. However, the time for winning is near in the Bronx, and they can’t take wounded warriors into battle. The waiting game is over. Bye-bye Birdie.