The Yankees are starting the offseason with a bang. On a night when the 40-man roster needed settling, the team make several shocking roster moves. In addition to adding seven prospects to the 40-man roster, the club released Jacoby Ellsbury and designated Greg Bird and Nestor Cortes Jr. for assignment.
Ellsbury, 36, last appeared for the Yankees in Game Four of the 2017 ALCS, when he was part of a DH platoon with Chase Headley. He battled a laundry list of injuries since, including plantar fasciitis and a torn hip labrum.
For the last two seasons, the club kept him on the injured list, partly to recoup insurance money. According to Ken Davidoff and George King, the $21 million owed to him this year wasn’t insured. The club recognized a sunk cost and released him to clear a roster spot.
The Yankees signed Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million contract prior to the 2014 season. The move was met with trepidation at first, but few predicted how poorly it would have played out. The outfielder hit .264/.330/.386 with 39 home runs (96 wRC+) and 102 stolen bases across 520 games in pinstripes. Instead of creating chaos atop the batting order, when he played he essentially was a worse version of Brett Gardner.
Bird, 27, was a prime non-tender candidate after multiple seasons lost to injury. The team jump-started the process by designating him for assignment tonight. The first baseman appeared in just 10 games in 2019 before a plantar fascia tear ended his season. He missed significant time each year since his impressive 2015 debut, including a labrum tear in his shoulder in 2016 and ankle injuries in 2017 and 2018. All told, he hit .211/.301/.424 with 32 home runs (96 wRC+) over 186 games with the Yankees.
Cortes Jr., meanwhile, played a significant role out of the bullpen this year. He frequently appeared as the bulk reliever, following Chad Green when he opened games. The 24-year-old southpaw used a variety of arm angles and release points to pitch to a 5.67 ERA (5.57 FIP) over 66.2 innings.
As for the prospects, the club protected Estevan Florial, Deivi García, Luis Gil, Brooks Kriske, Luis Medina, Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure. Florial is the lone position player, while the rest are right-handed pitchers. Freeni will have more on them tonight with the news.
For now, though, holy crap. How do you feel about the team parting ways with Ellsbury? What about Bird and Cortes Jr.? Let us know in the comments below.