The moves cleared space to add seven players to the 40-man roster, including top prospects Deivi Garcia and Estevan Florial, protecting them from potentially being taken in December's Rule 5 draft.
Garcia is considered the Yankees' No. 1 prospect while Florial is ranked No. 3 by MLB.com. Both are among the site's top 100 prospects in baseball and are considered to be key parts of the future.
Meanwhile, Ellsbury was clearly not in the Yankees' plans after going the last two seasons without playing a single game because of a variety of injuries.
He signed a seven-year, $153 million deal in 2013 but never lived up to expectations after being an MVP candidate with the Boston Red Sox.
The 36-year-old is owed $21.1 million for the 2020 season with a buyout of $5 million for 2021.
Bird also didn't reach expectations with the Yankees, failing to produce even a .200 batting average in any of the last three seasons. Though his power was always impressive—32 home runs in 700 career plate appearances—he only appeared in 10 games in 2019.
The 27-year-old could get a chance with another team if he is claimed on waivers.