With a chance that Greg Bird might miss all of 2017 on the table, which first basemen should the New York Yankees pursue at the deadline?
For the New York Yankees in 2017, first base has been an enormous issue from Opening Day and it doesn’t seem like an issue that will resolve itself.
Thanks to an early-season injury to Greg Bird, manager Joe Girardi has been scrambling for answers with the likes of Chris Carter, who was designated for assignment after striking out in 42 percent of his at-bats, and Tyler Austin, who could be heading to the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
As expected, New York owns the second-worst WAR (-1.3) in the majors from the position. Simply put, that narrative needs to change if they are going to stay competitive this season.
Thankfully, there are some options come July 31 that general manager Brian Cashman can pursue to fix this issue. If Austin were to hit the DL, that could mean the return of Carter being the only option — the opposite of ideal. Here are the four potential targets that could kick-start production from the first base position:
The New York Mets are selling and Duda, who is slated to hit the free agent market following the 2017 season, could bring some of that lefty power the Yankees were expecting from Bird following his crazy spring training.
He may not be the best of defenders, but neither was Chris Carter. Furthermore, Duda is putting together a relatively solid campaign.
In 54 games, the 31-year-old is slashing .253/.364/.555 with 13 home runs and an OPS of .919. That’s the highest of his eight-year career and strikingly better than the Yankees’ collective OPS of .588 from first base in 2017.
No, Duda won’t carry the likes of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez on his shoulders, but that’s not what Lucas Duda would be brought to the Bronx to do. Gunning for the short porch in right field in the latter part of the batting order is all that would be expected. With no pressure, he could thrive.
Hosmer was brought up on ESNY earlier in the season, but getting the 27-year-old into pinstripes makes too much sense.
An All-Star MVP, World Series champion, World Baseball Classic Champion and three-time gold glove first baseman, Hosmer is a bonafide winner. Obtaining a team-first personality like that right in his prime not only bodes well for the Baby Bombers, but it could also help drive the Yankees to multiple winning seasons if they retain his contract following its expiration this offseason.
If we’re talking now, however, Hosmer has the goods that could potentially spark a nice run.
In 75 games, the lefty owns a .306/.364/.468 slash line with nine home runs and 32 RBIs. Among the 31 qualified American League first baseman, Hosmer ranks inside the Top-Ten in wRC+ (120), runs scored (41), OBP (.365) and ultimate zone rating (0.5).
Cashman sure has the firepower to pull off a trade for the face of the Kansas City Royals’ franchise and could even retain his services when Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia‘s contracts come off the books after the regular season. That’s a sure-thing at first base for years to come.
We all know the Oakland Athletics and we know the franchise is very rarely able to retain their high-dollar free agents when they hit the open market. Thus, Yonder Alonso, who is currently having a career-year on the West Coast, should be available come late-July.
Alonso has hit 17 home runs in 253 plate appearances — a 40 homer pace — along with a slash line of .288/.383/.580 and the greatest wRC+ (151) among AL first basemen this season. He’s been the best at the position while the Yankees are still searching for some answers.
Supplementing the dynamic duo of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez — and the impending returns of Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks — with that kind of production could easily make the Yankees’ lineup one the best in the sport as the dog days approach.
Two trades in a single season aren’t illegal and Matt Adams, who was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals with cash to the Atlanta Braves for Juan Yepez on May 20, could be hitting the market yet again.
The 28-year-old is currently filling in for the injured Freddie Freeman at first base and although there is talk about moving Freeman to third base, there’s no legitimate reason to believe Adams is nothing more than a stop-gap for the Braves until the face of their franchise returns to action. Plus, it would be foolish for the Braves not to cash-in on a pair of attractive prospects for Adams’ services. It makes too much sense.
For the Yankees, it also makes too much sense.
Adams is eligible for arbitration following the 2017 and is expected to hit the open market after the 2018 season. That gives Cashman two options for Adams next winter: ship him (for another pair of prospects or package him for a starter) or use him as insurance in case more problems with Bird pop up next season.
We should also mention that we’re talking about a veteran left-handed slugger who’s posting a .981 OPS this season and has played in five postseasons (102 at-bats). If the Baby Bombers find themselves in unfamiliar territory (the playoffs), Adams will be there to show them the ropes.