Luke Voit began his Yankees career in 2018 as a midseason acquisition, catching fire after coming over from the Cardinals to help lead the charge into the postseason. He mostly held up to expectations the following year, getting derailed only by a core injury that depleted his strength at the plate for a few months, and rose to new heights in 2020 when he led the league in home runs — despite a nagging foot injury that was particularly evident throughout the final month of the season.
2021 was set up to be a continuation of Voit establishing himself as one of the game’s premier power bats, until injuries once again hampered him. This time, however, he found himself getting replaced by a midseason acquisition, and it may have spelled the end of his days in pinstripes.
2021 Stats: 68 G, 241 PA, .239/.328/.437, 109 OPS+, 111 wRC+, -2 OAA, 0.4 fWAR
2022 Contract Status: Entering first year of arbitration
Voit’s trouble began early, with an aggressive slide in spring training that led to a partially torn meniscus. The initial outlook had Voit sidelined until June, but he surprised everyone by returning ahead of schedule (the opposite of what we’ve been conditioned to expect with Yankees injury updates) in May. However, the positivity was short-lived, thanks to an oblique strain putting Voit right back on the IL.
In the meantime, the Yankees were trying anything and everything to replace Voit’s production — with absolutely no internal answers. DJ LeMahieu was capable of manning the corner, but his bat regressed hard from his excellent 2019-20 stretch, and the trio of Jay Bruce, Mike Ford, and Chris Gittens couldn’t provide anything to hold onto the starting job either. Thus, the team could only wait and hope that Voit would return soon enough and be able to get right back to mashing.
Voit did return in late June, and hit homers in two of his first three games back, but after that strong start things quickly tapered off. The third blow to Voit’s season came in the form of a bone bruise in the middle of July, taking him out of commission for about a month. Now, the Yankees were looking at the prospect of going through the trade deadline hoping that their first baseman who had played in only 29 games up to this point would stabilize for the remainder of the year. Any team would have a tough time taking that gamble, but the offense-starved Yankees definitely couldn’t risk it — so they went and got Anthony Rizzo from the Cubs to take over at first base.
Oddly enough, this didn’t spell the end of Voit’s season. A trip to the COVID-IL for Rizzo synced up almost perfectly with Voit returning from the IL, giving the slugger one more chance to earn some playing time. Voit took that opportunity and ran with it, mashing at the plate while the Yankees went on their season-best 13-game win streak. Now the team had to make a choice as to how they were going to field a red-hot Voit, a dependable bat with a great glove in Rizzo, and the elite Giancarlo Stanton at the same time.
For a time, it seemed like they were willing to get all of them in the lineup together with Voit as the DH and Stanton in the outfield. Almost as abruptly as they deployed this version of the lineup, however, it went away. Voit was suddenly riding the bench, only seeing occasional starts and pinch-hitting opportunities that disrupted his flow at the plate, and then the final blow came down on the final week of the regular season — knee inflammation landed Voit on the IL and ended his 2021 season.
Injuries have managed to take their toll on Voit throughout his Yankees tenure, but this year they defined his season. His availability is a massive question mark going forward, and it has prompted the front office into looking for a potential replacement — whether that be re-signing the guy they got to hold down the fort in Rizzo, or looking elsewhere for a fresh face. It’s clear that when he can stay on the field Voit can be an impactful batter, but there’s a lot of evidence to show that betting on him staying healthy is too risky.
Voit does have one thing going for him at the moment, and that’s the fact that he’s already on the roster. Any potential trade involving Voit would be selling extremely low, and given the fact that there are several key spots on the roster that need improvement there’s a chance that the Yankees end up rolling the dice on Voit for one more year. A full offseason to implement Stanton in the outfield rotation would also do wonders to improve Voit’s odds of sticking around, but there’s no guarantee that the Yankees even want to go down that path anymore. Regardless, all Voit can do at this point is work on getting back to top form for spring training and hope that his body holds up better this time around.