The Blue Jays have released first baseman Greg Bird from his minor league contract, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (Twitter link). Toronto gave “strong” consideration to carrying Bird on the roster, Nicholson-Smith adds, but ultimately the Jays will go in a different direction with their Opening Day 28-man roster.
Bird, 29, had a strong spring showing in Dunedin, hitting .261/.393/.565 with a pair of homers, a double, five walks and five strikeouts in 28 trips to the plate. That performance comes on the heels of a .267/.362/.532 batting line with 27 home runs in 461 plate appearances with the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate last season.
There’s never been too much doubt that Bird has the ability to hit. He was at one point viewed as a possible long-term option at first base for the Yankees, and understandably so after a .261/.343/.529 batting line and 11 home runs in 178 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Injuries, however, have taken their toll on Bird over the years and caused him to miss substantial amounts of time. Shoulder surgery wiped out his entire 2016 campaign, and when he returned in Spring Training the following year, Bird fouled a ball off his ankle that resulted in an injury which eventually required surgery. A year later, that same ankle required a second surgery, and in 2019, he developed plantar fasciitis in his other foot and missed the bulk of the season.
Bird’s huge rookie showing, his career .277/.365/.530 slash line in Triple-A, and this year’s brief but impressive spring performance with the Jays all serve as a reminder of the upside he has at the plate. It’s quite possible he’ll draw interest from another team in need of some help at first base and/or designated hitter. Nicholson-Smith does note that there’s some chance of the Jays re-signing Bird to a new minor league deal, but he’ll of course have the opportunity to talk to all 29 other clubs now as well.
Any team that does pick him up could technically control him not only for the 2022 season but also through 2023 via arbitration, though he’d first need to make the big league roster at some point and hold a spot through season’s end.