As the New York Yankees prepare for the offseason, first baseman Mark Teixeira has reportedly given the team an ‘Okay’ to trade him this offseason, if necessary, via Yanks Go Yard.
Teixeira, 35, is set to enter the final year of the eight-year, $180 million contract he signed with the Yankees prior to the 2009 season. Despite missing a month and a half with a fractured shin, Teixeira’s 2015 campaign was his most productive season in years.
In 111 games, Teixeira hit .255 with 31 HR and 79 RBI. His production at the plate earned a nod to the 2015 All-Star game in Cincinnati, his first All-Star appearance since 2009. Also, those 31 HR were the most he’s hit in one season since he swatted 39 in 2011.
Normally, after a strong comeback season and one-year remaining on the contract, a player would be all but a lock to return. However, in Teixeira’s absence, 22-year-old rookie Greg Bird took over the reins at first base, displaying that he is more than capable of holding his own at the Major League level.
— Yankees Report (@yankees_fanly) October 9, 2015
Entering the 2015 season, Bird was ranked the Yankees’ fourth best prospect by Baseball America. Then, in 83 total games between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Bird hit a combined .277 with 12 HR and 52 RBI. Also, the Memphis, Tennessee, native showed a keen ability to get on base, as evidenced by his .356 OBP.
On Aug. 13, the Yankees called up Greg Bird to back up Teixeira at first base and Alex Rodriguez at designated hitter. He went 0-for-5 in his debut, via the New York Post.
But when Teixeira went down with a fractured shin on Aug. 17, Bird was slotted at the starting first baseman for the remainder of 2015. He showed patience and power at the plate, hitting .261 with 11 HR and 31 RBI in 46 games. While his defense is still a work in progress, Bird’s ability with the bat impressed the Yankees’ universe and has sped up his progression from the first baseman of the future to the first baseman of today.
However, with Teixeira, Rodriguez, and other veterans under contract, Bird does not have a clear role on the 2016 Yankees. Based on his performance in 2015, the Yankees will likely not want to relegate Bird to the bench. Yet, keeping him in the Minor Leagues when he has shown pristine ability at the Major League level would not be maximizing their asset.
Therefore, the only way to get Bird regular at-bats at first base would be to trade Teixeira. And if the Yankees do pursue a trade, Teixeira reportedly named the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as his preferred landing spot.
In 2008, Teixeira was traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Angels at the trade deadline in exchange for first baseman Casey Kotchman and a minor league pitcher, per ESPN. With his switch-hitting prowess, Teixeira led the Angels to the playoffs by hitting a robust .358 with 13 HR and 43 RBI in 54 games. While the Angels had interest in retaining Teixeira, he ultimately ended up signing with New York in free agency.
If the Angels are his preferred destination, Teixeira does not have an obvious fit with that team. First base is currently occupied by the legendary Albert Pujols, who is under contract until 2021 as part of the 10-year, $240 million deal he signed prior to the 2012 season. He’s coming off a strong-season of his own in 2015, slugging 40 HR in 157 games.
But the Angels are not the only team with a potential need at first base in 2016.
A native of Maryland, Teixeira could be a possible fit for the Baltimore Orioles as slugger Chris Davis is a free agent who will likely be out of the Orioles’ price range. While Teixeira may represent a nice one-year stopgap, a trade within the division seems unlikely.
Also, the Pittsburgh Pirates could be a possible fit. The Yankees and Pirates have come together for several trades in recent years and that alone makes them a fit.
Ultimately, despite Bird’s impressive showing, the Yankees will likely be weary of relying on a 22-year-old to replicate Teixeira’s production. According to Baseball-Reference, Teixeira is projected to hit .233 with 24 HR and 67 RBI next season. Bird is projected to hit .264 with 13 HR and 41 RBI.
Therefore, unless the Yankees are blown away by a trade offer, Teixeira will likely finish out his contract in pinstripes.
[Photos by Brian Blanco, Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images]