Will the Blue Jays sign Greg Bird: A backstory on the 29-year-old first baseman
10 months ago
Does the name Greg Bird sound familiar?
Questions still remain on whether or not the Blue Jays will be able to acquire a left handed bat who can hit for power. However, Bird, a first baseman, may be able to fit that role.
The 29-year-old played four seasons with the New York Yankees between 2016-2019, where he slashed a measly .211/.301/.725 with 32 home runs in his 700 plate appearances. However, prior to his first MLB plate appearance, he was a highly touted prospect in the Yankees organization.
Greg Bird’s minor league days:
Drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 draft out of high school, it took the 29-year-old (obviously younger at the time) a few years to develop before even ranking in MLB Pipeline’s list of top Yankees. Why do I bring this up? Well it will illustrate how highly touted he was as a prospect (which was noted in the Phillies broadcast yesterday), but how much injuries cost him.
He broke out in the 2013 season and ranked 7th on the 2014 Top 30 Yankee prospects. Now, I won’t be giving you the stats as it’s not really important, but we’ll just focus on his grades from each season.
He also led the minor leagues in walks, but MLB Pipeline also notes that he had back problems which led to him losing athleticism. Interestingly, he was also Kevin Gausman’s catcher in high school, so that’s something.
He had another great season in 2014, as he spent time between High A and Double A. While his homer totals declined, adjusted to the level, I’d argue he improved.
Bird’s value as a prospect came from the fact that he mashed dingers for fun. According to his 2015 bio, he was a below average runner (back injuries) and an alright fielder at first base. As a first baseman, none of that mattered because your job is to hit for power and stand on the first base bag.
An interesting note from the 2015 Yankees Top 30 is the fact that former Jay and current Red Sox, Rob Refsnyder ranked right below Bird at fifth. Not just that, but fellow non-roster invitee Gosuke Katoah was ranked as their 28th best prospect.
Bird Up to the majors:
Greg Bird’s first season was his best. He slashed .261/.343/.871 and added 11 home runs in his 178 plate appearances. While he had a pretty high K% of 29.8%, this was the only season where he hit over the Mendoza line (.200), had a wRC+ over average (100) and an fWAR over 0.1.
Sadly, injuries started to creep up on the slugger. He missed the entire 2016 season due to a labrum tear that required surgery. He was ready to start the 2017 season, but a foot injury sidelined him at the start of May. He didn’t see game action until August 26th, 2017.
Before the start of the 2018 season, Bird required surgery to remove bone spurs in his right ankle. The first baseman returned in May and slashed .199/.286/.672 with 11 homers in 311 plate appearances, the most in a single season.
After only 41 plate appearances in 2019, Bird missed the season due to a plantar fascia tear in his left foot. He was cut loose by the Yankees at the end of the season and missed the 2020.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, Bird signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. The first baseman didn’t make the team at the start of the season in July. On the 31st, the Rangers selected his contract and then disaster struck, as he had a right calf strain literally the next day. After his 10 day stint on the IL, the Rangers DFA’ed him.
Take flight, Bird:
The then 28-year-old first baseman signed a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies. After five miserable seasons that saw Bird have continuous injuries, he stayed fully healthy in 2021. Not only did he stay healthy, but he had a career resurgence with the Albuquerque Isotopes.
Bird played in 112 games where he slashed .267/.363/.894 in his 461 plate appearances. Not only that, but Bird also hit 27 homers, a career high at any level. He had a solid strikeout rate for a slugger at 23% with an impressive walk rate at 12.6%.
However, this must be taken with a grain of salt, as the Isotopes home field is over 5,000 feet above sea level. Despite being a slugger, his home run total could have been elevated due to the altitude, much like how altitude affects Coors Park in Denver. In fact, the Pacific Coast League is often referred to as “hitters heaven” due to not only the altitude at some parks, but also due to the low humidity of the region.
Looking at his home and away splits, he had only five less homers away (16 home, 11 away), but one noticeable difference was his batting average. At home, his average sat at a pretty high .320, but once he was away, that dropped down to .214.
Should the Jays sign him:
The first question that must be asked is how much do you trust the PCL numbers. Yes, he was always a slugger, but after five years of injuries, it’s hard to see him just re-emerge as a power hitter. However he did stay healthy, which is a great sign for the 29-year-old.
If the Jays are unable to get that lefty bat, it may be worth signing Bird to a short term contract depending on how his spring training goes. All I know is that after doing research for this article, I am rooting for the 29-year-old first baseman, whether or not he stays in the Blue Jays organization.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. I still can’t believe that Bird caught Kevin Gausman. That is insane to me.
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