Greg Bird became a fan favorite in the Yankees minor league system as he soared (pun intended) up the depth chart and into our hearts. After playing just four games in 2011 due to injury, Bird has dominated the competition, never letting his wRC+ drop below 133 at any level, including the big leagues. In an era where homegrown players are proving to be more valuable than ever, Bird represents the first success story in a while from the team that has struggled mightily with the development of position players.
Unfortunately, a man by the name of Mark Charles Teixeira will return in 2016 to reclaim his spot as the everyday first baseman for the Yankees. Because of Bird's lack of defensive versatility, Tex's return could spell a very unfair demotion for the rookie. While Bird definitely deserves to play for a major league team next year, the Yankees simply have no choice but to send him to Scranton-Wilkesbarre to start the 2016 season.
To be fair, most Yankee fans are not crazy enough to think that Bird should steal Mark Teixeira's spot. Of course, sports radio host and serial prank call victim Mike Francesa might disagree. But the general consensus among advocates for Bird's return to the big leagues is that he could be a good lefty bat off the bench.
While his past performance seems to back this theory, there is also reason to believe that Dustin Ackley could get the job done as well, while providing more defensive versatility. Last season, Ackley put up a .241/.288/.454 slash line against right handed pitching, with most of the production coming after he was traded from Seattle to the Yankees. It is worth noting that Ackley, the former second overall pick, comes from a Mariners' organization that has been much more frustrating than the Yankees farm system with the development of prospects.
It is true that reducing the workload assigned to Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez could help the two sluggers maintain their production later into the season. But Brian McCann will also need time off from catching and could slide over to first base every once in a while. Elsewhere on the Yankees' depth chart, catchers John Ryan Murphy and Gary Sanchez have also made themselves impossible to ignore. On A-Rod's off days, it will make more sense to move Carlos Beltran to the DH spot, as his defense has rapidly deteriorated in the last few years.
Then there is the issue of service time. The ethics surrounding service time are an entirely different discussion on their own. But from a business perspective, keeping Bird in the minors for parts of the 2016 season could keep him under team control for another season. If it means keeping a more polished Greg Bird in pinstripes for another year, the Yankees have to consider putting him in the minors in 2016.
Brian Cashman has already stated that he isn't really sure of what he will do with Greg Bird in 2016. But a ragtag team of Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Dustin Ackley could probably do Greg Bird's proposed job next season, and they could easily do very well at that job. Stats like WAR aim to measure how much better a player is compared to his replacement, assuming the replacement is just a run-of-the-mill Triple-A player. Bird's replacement would be a trio of very potent hitters, which ultimately cancels out some of the value he adds. It isn't fun for anyone, but the Yankees can't truly let Bird out of his cage just yet.