First base wasn’t supposed to be a problem for the Yankees. Mark Teixeira held down the position for a long time, and his heir apparent, Greg Bird, emerged in 2015. Outside of Teixeira’s brief resurgence 2015, though, first base has been an absolute black hole for the Bombers. That’s mostly because this team banked on the talent and potential of Bird, which has backfired for various reasons.
Bird’s health woes have been discussed ad nauseam. This year, however, a new problem surfaced. It was the first time that Bird supposedly had a clean bill of health, but he couldn’t buy a hit. In the past, he’s always hit when healthy. His struggles tended stem from an underlying injury or medical issue.
When Bird finally got back on the field this year, it was the world’s tamest roller coaster. Shaking the rust off excused a slow start. Bird then followed that by hitting enough for people think he was starting to come around, that is until he fell off completely after that four-game sweep in Boston. That series broke the first baseman and began a tumultuous stretch run. He gradually transitioned from platoon bat, to the bench, to being left off the playoff roster completely.
Of course the Yankees were able to get through the figurative loss of Bird thanks to the emergence of Luke Voit. Voit got his first real opportunity in the majors and ran with it. With a flair for the dramatic, he become a hero in New York, hitting 14 home runs in 39 games. Is Voit for real, though? Or is he just a one-year wonder?
There are still plenty of questions surrounding both players. It’s why even though Voit grabbed the first base job to end the year, it’s not just being handed him going into next season. Voit and Bird will compete with each other, though Voit does have a “leg up” because of how well he played down the stretch.
This all seems like a trap. The Yankees apparently have two players they could use at first base, either or both of whom could succeed and run away with the job. Both of them also have just as good a chance of failing and the team could be left in the trenches again. What they need is a true contingency plan at first base next year, something they haven’t had in a long time.
Fortunately, they have a few options. They could pursue a trade for a legitimate first baseman like Jose Abreu or Paul Goldschmidt, as has been rumored. They could sign someone like Steve Pearce or bring back Neil Walker, both of whom are free agents this winter. Or a true wild card idea would be to have Miguel Andujar try to learn first base.
A lot of what the Yankees do this winter will revolve around Manny Machado. The top order of business will be determining if the the club will pursue, and then sign, the infielder. That’s the first domino that needs to fall. Everything else comes in line after that.
The past few years, it’s been the same mess of scrambling for a player at the last minute because there was no Plan B. We’ve all seen this movie before; we know how it ends. The Yankees need to set a real plan at first base.
Both Greg Bird and Luke Voit are question marks. Both could possibly be very good, but both could also fail. I’m almost reminded of the Miguel Andujar/Brandon Drury scenario last year, but the difference is that this time around both players are Andujar. They need a Drury for first base now. There’s no telling what the team has in Bird or Voit, so they need a real contingency plan.