The Yankees had a reunion with one of their former prospects in spring training, as lefty Manny Bañuelos tried to make the Opening Day roster. Although he was unsuccessful (for now) and will open the season in Triple-A Scranton, he’ll be joined by another familiar face from Baby Bombers past.
WFAN reporter Sweeny Murti brought the word that will make Yankees fans of a certain age smile: Greg Bird is back.
The Yankees have signed 1B Greg Bird to a minor league contract. Bird opted out of his minor league deal with Toronto to re-sign with the Yankees and will report to AAA @swbrailriders.— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) April 5, 2022
Although Bird was not nearly as well-regarded as prospect as Bañuelos, his impressive on-base skills throughout the minors won plenty of admirers, and when he made his MLB debut in 2015 at roughly the same time as Luis Severino, we went nuts for him.
Bird hit .261/.343/.529 with 11 homers in 46 games down the stretch as the Yankees won a Wild Cad berth. He even got one of the team’s few hits in that quiet loss to Houston.
Of course, the very problem that eventually ended Bird’s initial Yankees run cropped up the following season, when he missed 2016 with shoulder surgery. Even when he came back in 2017, injuries and ineffectiveness tarnished his status. He averaged just 47 games per season over the next three years, managing a meager 80 OPS+ in the process. He came alive for the team’s 2017 playoff run with three homers (including a pivotal blast off Andrew Miller) and a .938 OPS, but those were pretty much his last highlights in New York.
After Luke Voit burst onto the scene, Bird became mostly expendable, and after playing just 10 games in 2019, the Yankees cut him loose. With no minor league play, he spent the shortened 2020 at the Rangers’ and Phillies’ alternate sites, and while he acquitted himself well in 2021 with 27 homers and a 117 wRC+ in 112 games at the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate, he never got the call to return to The Show.
Bird had been mashing in Blue Jays camp this spring and seemed to be a good candidate to back up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first base. Ultimately, Toronto decided to go in a different direction and they weren’t going to add him to the roster. So Bird exercised the opt-out in his contract and took an offer that the Yankees made him to return to the organization. If he was going to play in Triple-A, it was going to be for the Yankees.
Will the now-29-year-old lefty bat get a shot in New York at all this season? Unclear; if Anthony Rizzo stays healthy, then probably not. But it’s nice to have a familiar face as minor league depth.
Welcome back, old friend.