The first base job is more than likely Luke Voit’s to lose, but the New York Yankees should consider dealing the big man.
Last week, we gave you insight on the New York Yankees’ first base battle, with Luke Voit representing the frontrunner heading into spring training.
But with lots of decent options for the right side, the Yankees might actually want to consider trading Voit.
In 157 games since joining the Yankees, Voit owns a slash line of .280/.384/.517, belting 35 home runs and driving in 95 runs. He was limited to just 118 games after a core muscle injury in London last year, which was reaggravated in late July. From July 13 through the end of the season, Voit hit just .228 and slugged .368, but still impressed with a .348 on-base percentage. After his second IL stint, he slashed .200/.319/.338. After a 1-for-32 (.031) stretch to end the season, he was left off both the ALDS and ALCS rosters.
While the struggles could very much be pointed at a rushed return from injury, the drop-off was alarming.
After being trading from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Bronx, Voit posted astonishing numbers, hitting .333, racking up a 1.095 OPS and serving as the Yankees’ hottest hitter heading into the 2018 postseason.
Voit hit .280 and held a .901 OPS before his injury in London, both of which are his current averages in his 157 game in pinstripes.
But the Yankees have other options with similar numbers who can be the everyday first baseman for the team—one being Miguel Andujar.
While his defense is certainly in question – a reason why a move to first base is possible anyway – Andujar’s rookie season was nothing to sneeze at, as he hit .297 and held an .855 OPS. He missed all but 12 games last season after shoulder surgery.
Mike Ford also played 29 games at first base last year—as of right now, Brett Gardner is the only left-handed bat who is projected to be a starter on Opening Day. Ford blasted 12 home runs, put up a slugging percentage of .559, and owned a .909 OPS in 50 games last year, his first in the majors.
Ford does not have a big enough sample size to likely contend for a starting spot, so we’ll pretend Andujar is the first baseman for now if Voit were gone—this would call for Giancarlo Stanton to slide into the designated hitter role.
Stanton knowingly battled injury throughout the 2018 season, a reason for spending more than half his season as the team’s designated hitter, and was limited to just 18 games last season with biceps and knee injuries. Stanton then played in just two of the six ALCS games battling another leg injury.
With Stanton under contract for eight more seasons at a hefty price, while fighting through injuries in both seasons since joining the Yankees, it may benefit the Bombers to plug Stanton in the safest role where he can focus on mashing home runs.
With Stanton a potential DH option, left field would then have two options: Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier.
Tauchman was another next man up for the Yankees last season, who acquired the outfielder from Colorado just prior to Opening Day. After starting the season with Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, he took the Scranton Shuttle until he stayed in the big leagues for good from June 26 until he strained his calf on Sept. 8. In that time frame, Tauchman slashed .321/.399/.577, blasted nine homers, and drove in 33 runs in 50 games.
Frazier is rotting away in the minor leagues, despite posting career-bests at the major-league level last year. With the outfield depth the Yankees have had since Frazier arrived in 2016, it has been hard for him to see ample playing time. His incident with the media last year after a rough defensive outing did not help his case, either.
However, Frazier played at a 34-home run, 104-RBI pace and owned an .843 OPS in his first 53 games. A once-prized prospect, who has performed at the professional level, could finally get the playing time his skill deserves.
And if the Yankees hate Frazier’s defense that much, throw Stanton in left, and have Frazier be the designated hitter.
Voit has five years of control and has major pop in his bat. But with James Paxton expected to miss time after undergoing surgery on Tuesday, it may not be a bad idea to grab arms to fill in the depth of the rotation. With Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka set to become free agents after this season, the Yankees also could secure the future of their rotation.
J.A. Happ will also hit free agency after the 2021 campaign. With $52.5 million coming off the books in the next two years from starting pitchers alone, the Yankees will have to start paying Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez bigger bucks in arbitration. They are making $8.5 million and $5 million this season, respectively. If DJ LeMahieu has a season similar to his All-Star performance in 2019, he will surely ask for more than the $12 million he is making this upcoming season, too.
The Yankees have arguably the best 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation in baseball for the next four years with Gerrit Cole and Luis Severino (the Yankees have a team option on Severino after 2022).
The Yankees will have an elite offense this season and well beyond, even if it did not include Voit. The rotation and its depth will be a question mark after this season.
Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia and Michael King are the easy answers for beyond this season – so was Chance Adams.
Trading Luke Voit will hurt, but if the Yankees can get controllable arms that can make a major impact in the big leagues, they should seriously consider it.