In 2015, Greg Bird took over for Mark Teixeira after the latter sustained a season-ending injury. In 46 games that season, Bird posted an .871 OPS and OPS+ of 135, filling in admirably for the oft-injured Teixeira.
That was the best version of Greg Bird we’ve ever seen, and since then, he has gone on to miss all of 2016, nearly all of last year, and has been usurped by Luke Voit over the past month. Tonight, Bird is making his first appearance in eight days, as he will be batting seventh in the lineup.
A power-hitting first baseman with a swing tailor-made for the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium is typical in Yankees lore, ranging from Gehrig and Giambi to Tino Martinez and the aforementioned Teixeira. While Giambi and Teixeira had durability issues of their own, they still maintained an elite level of production throughout their respective careers, something that Greg Bird has yet to do.
A cost-controlled first baseman of Bird’s caliber would normally be thought of as royalty, but Bird can simply not be depended on. Although the sample sizes are incomparable, it is worth noting that Luke Voit, also very young and under team control for a considerable amount of time, has certainly demonstrated that he is capable of performing up to par, as he has generated a 1.004 OPS (163 OPS+) across 23 games since being traded to the Yankees for Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos back in July.
Whether Bird remains in pinstripes is obviously up to him, and his days in pinstripes could be numbered. Sporadic flashes of brilliance are not good enough, not for this team in this business. Voit would certainly be a viable replacement for the embattled Bird; and yes, his limited sample size means he could regress to the mean. But virtually anything is an upgrade over the Bird right now, and Voit has (so far) proven that he should remain entrenched at first base.
Aaron Boone has likely inserted Bird into the lineup tonight in order to give Voit (15 straight games played) some rest, and to account for the platoon match-up, though Voit has incinerated right-handed pitchers (1.083 OPS such pitchers in 58 plate appearances this year).
The ball is in Bird’s court. His constantly fluctuating health and maddening incompetence have reached levels that Brian Cashman and the Yankees can no longer tolerate. This could prove to be the difference between him being on the team in April next year and cleaning out his locker in the clubhouse.