Greg Bird may not have been in line to start the 2016 season with the big league club, but his presence at Triple-A presented the team with a valuable insurance policy for two of their most fragile players. The Yankees could have called on Bird to replace Mark Teixeira at first base or Alex Rodriguez at DH at a moment's notice before a shoulder injury ended the season before it even began for the young player who impressed everyone in his debut. Now, the team needs to figure out a contingency plan.
While the team has no obvious opening for a starter, one injury could upset pretty much everything. Rodriguez can no longer play the field and that experiment won't be tried again, according to Brian Cashman. An injury to Chase Headley might force Starlin Castro into yet another position he isn't fully familiar with, leaving second base to one of Dustin Ackley or Rob Refsnyder. Ackley's disappointing returns let the Yankees nab him for peanuts last year, so how much can the team reasonably expect him to contribute if forced into a starting role? The team has all but hung a banner that says they do not trust Refsnyder at second base, and giving everyone a glimpse of why would be not ideal. Headley could slide over to first base if Teixeira was forced to miss time, but that presents all the same issues as mentioned before.
Without a real first base or third base prospect ready at Triple-A, the Yankees need to figure out some sort of plan in case the injury bug bites again. One option would be to sign Juan Uribe as a corner infield backup and strong bat off the bench. It is possible that Uribe will find a starting gig with some other team that will be more appealing to him than a part-time job with the Yankees, but it doesn't hurt to at least kick the tires.
Signing Uribe would force the Yankees to actually spend some money and actually sign a free agent. Doing that hasn't exactly been their plan this offseason, so it doesn't seem likely that it would change for a backup player. Still, this team has some old players who have proven to be quite brittle. Bird provided them a lot of protection against the worst case scenario, but there is currently no one to provide that kind of security blanket. Giving Uribe a job would allow flexibility and give the team a nice option off the bench when needed. Uribe is also universally praised as a clubhouse leader, which can only help when you have no shortage of young players in need of guidance.
Hal Steinbrenner says he's not comfortable with payroll being much higher than it is right now as a way of justifying the lack of pursuit of free agents Zack Greinke, David Price, and Jayson Heyward. If that's the tune Hal wants to sing, so be it, but opening the checkbook just a little to ensure that all the dominoes don't fall if one or two people have to miss significant time gives the Yankees the best chance to win in a year when the division is most certainly up for grabs. It would be unwise to hold your breath that Uribe will be the player that gets the Yankees to break their trade only policy, but it would be nice to be surprised.