This Bird is now free.
First baseman Greg Bird elected free agency rather than accept an assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, the Yankees announced on Wednesday.
The move all but closes the book on Bird’s injury-filled tenure in pinstripes. The chatty 27-year-old with the sweet lefthanded swing could not overcome the many injuries that made him more of a presence as a talking head on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard between innings than in the batter’s box during them.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman declined to comment when asked if the team would welcome Bird back on a future minor-league deal if he can’t land elsewhere. The Yankees designated Bird for assignment a week ago.
The Yankees have many options – but no sure things – for first base. DJ LeMahieu played there in the postseason, but could return to his more natural second base if Gleyber Torres replaces free agent Didi Gregorius at shortstop.
Luke Voit ended last season injured and in a huge slump. Mike Ford is a lefty option, but he’s the same age as Bird and only reached the majors in 2019. Edwin Encarnacion was allowed to leave as a free agent.
Bird was supposed to be a fixture at first by now. The Yankees’ fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2015, when he hit .261 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs in 46 games.
But Bird missed the 2016 season after having surgery on his right labrum. He played in just 140 games and hit a combined .194 from 2017-’19 because of multiple injuries, mostly to his feet and ankles. He appeared in 10 games this season – homering on Opening Day –before going on the injured list on April 16 with a left fascia tear.
Bird, who made $1.2 million in 2019, never returned. He recently ended a seven-game stint in the Dominican Winter League after hitting .125.