Back before the 2009 season, the New York Yankees signed Mark Teixeira to an eight-year, $180 million deal. The deal has been a relatively good one for New York, as Tex has posted a 19.4 WAR over the first seven years of the deal. Tex was having a solid season last year before injuries ended his 2015 campaign early. In stepped top prospect Gregory Bird, who immediately went on to fill the shoes of Tex posting a 137 wOBA in 178 plate appearances. However, Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman has already stated that the first base job will remain Teixeira’s. Bird will either find himself on the bench or beginning the season in Triple-A. The best thing for the Yankees present and future is to give the job to Bird in 2016.
The 2015 season was a bounce-back effort for Teixeira, who posted his highest wRC+ since his first year with the Yankees. Most of his value was tied to his high ISO, the .293 he posted was the highest of his entire career. With that extreme jump in ISO pushing his value upwards, Tex’s wRC+ was only slightly higher than the 137 put up by Bird. Teixeira is unlikely to repeat those lofty numbers in 2016 as his power is due for regression. Bird’s offensive production is supported by his batted ball profile as I’ve previously described and noted. If given the same number of at-bats, Bird should out-produce Teixeira in 2016. As a result, the Yankees should evaluate a potential trade involving their current first baseman. Big Tex does have a full no-trade clause, and has said he will not waive it. There is always the chance he could reconsider, especially if the Yankees become more willing to play Bird more frequently.
One possible trading partner for New York would be the Pittsburgh Pirates. Michael Morse is currently penciled in as the Pirates’ everyday first baseman. While Morse has been a useful player in the past, he is most valuable in a platoon role or as a bench bat. According to Fangraphs’ Depth Chart Projections, the Pirates are projected for the 10th highest WAR in the MLB at 39.5. This high projection includes their black hole at first base, as they are ranked above only the Miami Marlins and Colorado Rockies with their projected 0.6 WAR at the position. Tex would be a huge improvement for the team, and the increase in projected WAR could push them above the NL Central rival St. Louis Cardinals. The issue with this trade is the large amount of money due to Teixeira in 2016. The Pirates operate on a small budget and would likely be unwilling to take on all of Tex’s contract. In order for the Yankees to make a deal with the Pirates, they would need to take on most if not all of the money owed to Teixeira. In a market where there are not many appealing free-agent first base options this is a deal that the Pirates should make if they want to increase their chances of making the playoffs again in 2016.
The second team that should consider a deal for Tex is the Los Angeles Angels. According to Fangraphs projections the Houston Astros are the current favorites to win the AL West with a WAR total of 39.7. The Angels come in at 34.1 which is well within striking distance of the young Astros. The Angels have been heavily linked to the top free-agent outfielders left on the market, and are fully expected to add Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton. This kind of signing would be huge as the current left fielders on the roster are projected exactly 0.0 WAR. First base is another area of need as C.J. Cron is expected to split time with Albert Pujols at first and DH. Cron is projected to be a league-average hitter and below average defensively. Tex would be a huge upgrade over Cron and would allow Pujols to spend most of his time at DH. The Angels should be able to take on more of Teixeira’s contract than the Pirates would be able making them a slightly more attractive partner for the Yankees.
Trading Teixeira provides the Greg Bird a clear path to playing time which, in my opinion is the best thing for the Yankees in both the short and long terms. The Pirates and Angels both have needs at the position and the surrounding rosters to compete in 2016. While this is a move that is unlikely to come to fruition, it is one that should be considered by all three GMs.