The Yankees have released outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and designated first baseman Greg Bird for assignment as part of a series of roster moves. The club has also designated left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. and added seven players – outfielder Estevan Florial and right-handers Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Brooks Kriske, Luis Medina, Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure – to its 40-man roster. Ken Davidoff and George A. King III of the New York Post first reported the Yankees were considering releasing Ellsbury.
This brings to an end a hugely disappointing New York tenure for Ellsbury, a former star with archrival Boston who parlayed his success with the Red Sox into a seven-year, $153MM deal with the Yankees after 2013. Ellsbury was merely a decent to good contributor for the Yankees from 2014-17, and a series of injuries prevented him from taking the field at all over the previous two seasons.
The Yankees currently have a need in center field with Aaron Hicks on the mend from Tommy John surgery and Brett Gardner a free agent, so the fact that they’ve moved on from Ellsbury and eaten the remaining $26MM-plus on his contract speaks to how far his stock has fallen. Now, if the 36-year-old is going to continue his career, he’ll likely have to settle for a minor league pact with another organization.
Injuries have also been ruinous for the 27-year-old Bird, whom the Yankees once regarded as their first baseman of the future. Bird was tremendous during a 178-plate appearance debut in 2015, when the left-hander’s swing looked tailor-made for Yankee Stadium, but that’s the only regular-season excellence he has shown to this point. Bird missed all of 2016 after undergoing shoulder surgery and then hit a meager .194/.287/.388 in 522 trips to the plate from 2017-19. Thanks in part to foot problems, he totaled just 41 PA at the MLB level this season. At this point, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another team trade for or claim Bird, who still has three minor league options left.
Cortes, 24, is also in the DFA pile with Bird. The southpaw, a two-time member of the Yankees organization and also a former Oriole, saw extensive MLB action with New York in 2019. While Cortes limped to a 5.67 ERA/5.57 FIP in that 66 2/3-inning span, he did amass 9.32 strikeouts per nine against 3.78 walks. Cortes also had a solid year at the Triple-A level, where he posted a 3.86 ERA/3.40 FIP with 9.53 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 over 39 2/3 frames. He has a pair of minor league options remaining.