Does Greg Bird Have A Job?

Greg Bird has been on the disabled list this year since March 29 with right ankle surgery, retroactive to March 26. It was under the assumption that Bird was going to be out 6-8 weeks, meaning he would be back sometime between May 7 and May 21. Bird is hoping to start baseball activity again the week of April 30. If everything goes well, Bird could be back in that 6-8 week period. But, will he have a starting job when he returns.

The platoon of Neil Walker and Tyler Austin have been manning first base for the first part of the season in Birds absence. Walker has played in a total of 16 games, while be it not all at first base, had has 13 hits in 72 at bats with a slash line of .181/.231/.208. Walker is also currently, as of April 29, carrying a -.0.7 WAR. Those number are not ideal and not what you want production wise out of your first baseman.

Tyler Austin is a different story though. Even though tonight is the first night Austin will begin serving his 4 game suspension for the altercation with Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly, in 17 games Austin has had 18 hits in 62 at bats with a slash line of .290/.363/.629. Austin is also currently carrying a 0.7 WAR. In addition to his slash line Austin has also contributed 5 big flies, while Neil Walker has 0.

So it seems like the easy choice for rookie Manager Aaron Boone to pencil in Tyler Austin over Neil Walker every day at 1st base, but what happens when Greg Bird comes back?

Tyler Austin, who is 26 years old, in his 3 year career has 47 hits in 185 at bats with a career slash line of .254/.317/.508. Add to that 11 doubles and 12 home runs in a grand total 68 games, Tyler Austin has a lot of potential to be a star in New York.

Greg Bird, who is 25 years old, in his “2” year career has 69 hits in 147 at bats with a career slash line of .227/.316/.477. Add to that 16 doubles and 20 home runs in a grand total of 94 games. Greg Bird has a lot to show for the Yankees, and could be one of their biggest impact players. But can Greg Bird stay healthy?

Austin has had some injury history. On June 29, 2017 he went on the 10 day disabled list with a strained right hamstring, on April 2, 2017 he went on the 60 day disabled list with a fractured left ankle, and on February 17, 2017 he was listed as day to day with a fractured left foot. While these injuries definitely cut his 2017 season short, they have not seemed to cause his any long term issues.

Greg Bird on the other hand seems to be very injury prone early in his career. His injuries include:

  1. March 26, 2018 – Right Ankle Surgery, out 6-8 weeks.
  2. May 2, 2017 – Right Ankle Bruise, 60 day disabled list.
  3. March 25, 2016 – Torn Right Labrum, Out for the season.

It doesn’t seem like the torn right labrum that occurred in 2016 has impacted Bird very much after the rehab, but the main concern seems to be that right ankle, which has now impacted his playing time in two consecutive seasons.

Bird and Austin have very similar slash lines with Austin have a slight edge in all three categories, but Bird having more career home runs and doubles, even though Bird has a larger sample size, playing in 26 more games that Austin.

So with number so similar what will the Yankees do if and when Greg Bird comes back healthy? Do the Yankees keep Bird as a backup first basemen to keep the hot Tyler Austin in the starting position? Or would the Yankees rather have Bird in the lineup every day and hope that he can stay healthy? It seems unlikely that the Yankees would keep two starting 1st basemen on the roster. Even though Tyler Austin can also play right field, that position is quite crowded with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stantion out there. Greg Bird is under contract until 2022 and Tyler Austin is under contract until 2020, so if the Yankees decide to trade either slugger a team will not just be getting them for half a season, they will be getting the full value out of the slugger. Only time will tell what the Yankees will do, but it seems to be a good problem when you have too much talent on your roster.

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