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Yanks' best options for replacing Bird

NY could sign Alvarez or Morneau -- or simply stay put
MLB.com

Before news broke of Greg Bird's season-ending shoulder injury, the Yankees' 23-year-old first baseman projected as nothing more than a backup for the 2016 season. Realistically, however, he was a "backup" in title only.

Sure, Bird has fewer than 200 plate appearances in his career, and he was probably ticketed to begin the season in the Minors. But as the Yankees' second-best option at both first base and designated hitter, there's little doubt Bird would've played a pivotal role on the 2016 roster.

Before news broke of Greg Bird's season-ending shoulder injury, the Yankees' 23-year-old first baseman projected as nothing more than a backup for the 2016 season. Realistically, however, he was a "backup" in title only.

Sure, Bird has fewer than 200 plate appearances in his career, and he was probably ticketed to begin the season in the Minors. But as the Yankees' second-best option at both first base and designated hitter, there's little doubt Bird would've played a pivotal role on the 2016 roster.

Bird was set to start the season behind 40-year-old DH Alex Rodriguez -- who struggled down the stretch last year, most likely because of his workload -- and 35-year-old first baseman Mark Teixeira -- who hasn't played more than 123 games since 2011.

Put simply: There might not have been a more important "backup" in the Majors than Bird. The Yanks are covered at first base and DH, for now. But if injury histories and aging curves are any indicator, Bird was probably destined for around 110-120 games in 2016.

Video: Promising young slugger Greg Bird out for 2016

Instead, Bird will play none, and his absence leaves a gaping hole on the Yankees' roster. He offered the rare combination of a violently powerful swing mixed with an innate understanding of the strike zone, which few 23-year-olds possess. In 2015, Bird finished eighth in the Majors in average exit velocity and posted an .871 OPS.

So what might the Yanks do to combat Bird's absence? Here are a few options:

Sign Pedro Alvarez

Upside: Alvarez is exactly the kind of left-handed power bat who could thrive at Yankee Stadium. He'd be a fantastic late-inning power threat (in a division with plenty of quality right-handed relievers). Plus, Alvarez would be able to spell A-Rod against certain hard-throwing righty starters. Take a look at Alvarez's career left/right splits:

Vs. left: .203/.270/.332, 17 HRs
Vs. right: .246/.320/.473, 114 HRs

Downside: Alvarez has struggled mightily against left-handers in his career, and if either Rodriguez or Teixeira goes down with an injury, he's not a great everyday option for that reason. And while Alvarez fits nicely as a backup for Rodriguez, he doesn't exactly fit well behind Teixeira, an elite defender who was worth five  defensive runs saved last season, compared with Alvarez's minus-14 mark -- last place in the Majors.

Video: Five players who have something to prove in 2016

Sign Justin Morneau

Upside: Like Alvarez, Morneau is a left-handed-hitting first baseman, but most of the similarities end there. Morneau is very good defensively and not much of a drop-off from Teixeira. And while Morneau's career numbers vs. left-handers aren't great, in 2015 he was actually better against lefties than righties. Should Rodriguez or Teixeira go down for an extended period, Morneau is capable of playing every day -- no matter who is on the hill.

Downside: Morneau, himself, isn't a guarantee to stay healthy. A recurring concussion issue limited him to 49 games last season, and if the Yankees are going to invest in another hitter, they'd like to make sure he's available. The suddenly financially prudent Yanks might not be willing to make the investment on an injury-prone 34-year-old.

Video: BOS@NYY: Ackley goes deep in the 1st inning

Stay put with Dustin Ackley

Upside: Sure, Bird would've fit nicely behind A-Rod. But that doesn't mean the Yankees need to find a new backup DH. The Yanks' bench -- which should include Ackley, Rob Refsnyder and Aaron Hicks -- is relatively deep, even without Bird. And when manager Joe Girardi opts to spell A-Rod, he could use that day to give one of his everyday players a break from playing the field. Meanwhile, as a backup first baseman, Ackley has proven very capable against righties and very comfortable at Yankee Stadium, where he slugged .593 last season.

Downside: Ackley may be the best option for the Yankees, financially. But if general manager Brian Cashman sticks with his current roster, it means he's betting on a healthy Teixeira. That's a major gamble, considering Teixeira missed significant time with calf, wrist, hamstring and knee injuries over the past four years. If Teixeira can stay injury-free in 2016, the Yanks' roster is probably just fine as constructed. But if he gets hurt, New York might have missed out on Alvarez and Morneau when they were available.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Yankees, Greg Bird