Yanks release Ellsbury, DFA Bird among moves

November 25th, 2019

NEW YORK -- ’s time with the Yankees has officially ended, as the club released the oft-injured outfielder ahead of Wednesday’s 8 p.m. ET deadline to set their 40-man roster in advance of the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

The decision to release the 36-year-old Ellsbury came as part of a flurry of other moves. The Yanks also designated first baseman and left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. for assignment.

Ellsbury has not played since a pinch-running appearance in Game 4 of the 2017 American League Championship Series due to a variety of injuries stemming from arthroscopic surgery to repair his left hip in August 2018. He spent most of 2019 rehabbing at the Yankees’ Minor League complex in Tampa, Fla.

The release means that the Yankees will eat the remaining $21 million on the seven-year, $153 million contract that Ellsbury signed with New York prior to the 2014 season, plus a $5 million buyout for the 2021 campaign. The New York Post reported that Ellsbury’s contract was not insured for 2020, as previous years had been. The $21 million figure will count against the Yankees’ luxury tax bill for 2020.

Following news that outfielder Aaron Hicks would miss at least the first three months of the regular season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, general manager Brian Cashman said that he did not consider Ellsbury to be a candidate to re-join the lineup.

“Based on how things are played out, right now he's not someone that's in a position, health wise, for me to be answering in the affirmative at this time,” Cashman said.

Ellsbury batted .264/.330/.386 with 39 home runs and 198 RBIs in his four seasons wearing pinstripes, appearing in 520 games. He was a .297/.350/.439 hitter with 65 homers and 314 RBIs over his previous seven seasons with the Red Sox.

Bird, 27, was limited to 10 games this season due to plantar fasciitis. Though Bird’s left-handed stroke seemed a natural fit for Yankee Stadium, he was unable to remain on the field, compiling a .194/.287/.388 slash line in the Majors from 2017-19. Bird recently played in the Dominican Winter League.

“He's got a great swing if he can stay healthy,” Cashman said last week. “We all know what he's capable of doing, but unfortunately we haven't had a chance to unwrap that present because the injuries have just piled up. I still believe in the talent, and let's see what else happens in the future.”

Cortes, who turns 25 in December, was 5-1 with a 5.67 ERA in 33 games (one start) for the Yankees this past season.

In corresponding moves, the Yankees added outfielder Estevan Florial, right-hander Deivi García, right-hander Luis Gil, right-hander Brooks Kriske, right-hander Luis Medina, right-hander Nick Nelson and right-hander Miguel Yajure to the Major League roster. Those players will thus be protected during the Dec. 12 Rule 5 Draft, to be held at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.