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Yankees release Jacoby Ellsbury, designate Greg Bird for assignment

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The Yankees announced some stunning news on Wednesday: outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has been released and first baseman Greg Bird was designated for assignment. In doing so, the Yankees opened up a couple of spots on the 40-man roster, which allows them to protect some younger players from the Rule 5 draft.

The news is stunning, though not surprising — one just didn’t expect Ellsbury and Bird’s tenures to end so unceremoniously. Ellsbury hasn’t played since 2017 due to injuries. He is owed $21.1 million for the 2020 season plus a $5 million buyout in 2021.

Ellsbury, 36, was a big free agent get for the Yankees ahead of the 2014 season, inking a seven-year, $153 million contract. Along with injuries, he underperformed, batting a meager .264/.330/.386 with an aggregate 9.8 WAR, according to Baseball Reference, from 2014-17.

Bird, 27, debuted with a lot of hype in 2015, mashing 11 home runs in 46 games as a 22-year-old. He, too, missed lots of time in recent years due to injuries. He ends his Yankees tenure with a .725 OPS and 0.1 WAR across 186 games spanning parts of four seasons.

Bryce Harper played some third base in an intrasquad game

Bryce Harper third base
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Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.

Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.

Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”

Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.

Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.