In case you missed yesterday's unfortunate news, the Yankees announced that Greg Bird will have to miss the entire 2016 season. He suffered from a shoulder injury last May, and although he was able to return during the season, he felt lingering pain during the offseason. Doctors originally advised Bird to rehab his shoulder like he did in May, but his shoulder pain flared up again, and today he will undergo surgery to repair a right shoulder labrum tear. What exactly does Bird's injury mean for the Yankees moving forward?
First and foremost, Bird's injury really hurts the Yankees' depth at first base. Mark Teixeira is going into his final season as a Yankee and hasn't played more than 125 games in a season since 2011. His wrist injury and fractured leg were both fluke injuries, but if he has to miss any significant time in 2016, Bird could have filled in for him like he did for the last few weeks of the 2015 season. Now Brian Cashman says that Dustin Ackley will be the backup first baseman. In the event that Ackley goes down, Chase Headley could shift over to first base. If worst comes to worst, the Yankees have floated the idea of moving Brian McCann to first base at some point, and he has played about 120 innings there. With Bird out for the season, the Yankees really have no one that they can turn to in Triple-A. Cashman shot down the idea of signing a first baseman to a Major League deal, thus ruling out Juan Uribe, Pedro Alvarez, or one of the other free agents still out there. If the Yankees still plan to make any moves between now and spring training, they would likely sign a first baseman to a minor-league deal.
Bird's injury also opens up the 25th roster spot a bit more. At this point, 24 of the 25 spots on the Yankees' roster are filled, and the 25th spot is typically comparable to a revolving door. Last year, the Yankees used that spot to carry an eighth reliever as they constantly shuffled the likes of Bryan Mitchell, Nick Goody, Nick Rumbelow, James Pazos and others between Triple-A and the majors. Prior to Bird's injury, it seemed like he could have an opportunity to fill that spot, in order to spell Tex or Alex Rodriguez at some point throughout the season (although Cashman said he didn't envision Bird joining the team unless one of the two was hurt). Now Bird's injury opens the door to other Triple-A position players, such as Rob Refsnyder who becomes the player most likely to be called up if the Yankees want to carry an extra infielder. If the Yankees want to carry a fifth outfielder at any point, then Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams or Ben Gamel would get the call. Knowing how much they love carrying an eighth reliever, the Yankees will probably go that route, though.
Whichever way you slice it, Bird's injury is detrimental to the team. He could have spent the season gearing up to take over Teixeira's spot at first base in 2017, but instead he will be stuck rehabbing a shoulder injury. This also calls into question whether the Yankees will roll the dice and choose Bird to be their first baseman next season, not knowing what to expect from him. The free agent market does not look particularly enthralling either. Here's to hoping that Bird heals quickly and that Tex stays healthy and puts together a great final season.