Most of the offseason has been spent wondering where Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will end up. It’s the end of January and we’re still no closer to knowing than we were in November. Lost in the “Will They Won’t They” between the Yankees and those premiere free agents has been the team’s plan at first base. We know what their plan is, but that can’t be it, right?
After Greg Bird finally got healthy (at least that’s what we’re led to believe) last year, he failed to take the first base job and truly make it his. In what seemed like an insignificant Hail Mary, Brian Cashman went out and acquired Luke Voit from the Cardinals at the end of July last year. Some genius writers knew Voit was destined to fail and called for Greg Bird to remain the starter.
Luckily, the Yankees do not take advice from mindless bloggers like that guy and they only do what’s best for the Yankees. Luckily, Luke Voit got hot.
In 39 games, Voit 39 hit .333/.405/.689 with 14 home runs across 148 plate appearances. That was good for a 194 wRC+. He, rightfully, took the first base job through the playoffs and relegated Bird to an afterthought. Bird didn’t even crack the playoff roster.
While Voit was a pleasant surprise in 2018, I’m weary of going all-in on him with no backup plan in 2019. Fortunately, the Yankees do have a backup plan? Okay, fine, they have a plan. It just may not be a very good one.
Going over a potential starting lineup of the team as it is constructed today, Cashman easily anointed Miguel Andujar the starter at third base and Luke Voit the starter at first. Cashman did have one caveat, though:
“Unless [Greg] Bird beats him out,” Cashman said.
As of right now, it looks like the Yankees will go into spring training with Voit in the driver seat for the starting gig. Bird will have his opportunity to win the job back, but for now it’s Voit’s to lose. The problem, though, is what if Bird doesn’t do enough to win the job and Voit actually loses it?
First base has been a problem for the Yankees for a few years now and it’s concerning to see them not even address this at all. Obviously they have a lot more information than I do, so their lack of action could be a huge vote of confidence in Voit (...a Voit of confidence, if you will). Still though, I hope for something more reassuring than believing in Voit or crossing their fingers for Bird.
Personally, I wouldn’t object to them still bringing in an outsider to back up first base (Harper’s played a game at first, you say?). They’re not inspiring, but a flier on someone like Mark Reynolds or Lucas Duda to back up Voit couldn’t hurt. They’d provide the Yankees with true first base insurance and then whoever loses between Voit and Bird could go to Triple-A and play every day.
The Yankees also signed DJ LeMahieu, who hasn’t played a position other than second base in four years, to be their utility man. Since he’s never done that before, maybe they could try and have him learn first base too? Or they could’ve just signed Marwin Gonzalez instead, but hey what do I know? Their last option would be to try and teach Miguel Andujar first base.
Andujar or LeMahieu learning the position could work fine in an emergency, but honestly, I’m tired of the Yankees trying to force players to learn positions they have no experience with. A true first base backup would be the most reassuring solution, even if it’s the least likely.
Maybe the Yankees will shock us all and do something in the next couple weeks to address this potential hole on the team. Maybe Voit won’t suck at all or maybe Bird will finally soar. Until then, we just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best.