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Luke Voit’s successes are what we should remember

Although frustration with injuries was a theme, Luke Voit produced in a big way for the Yankees, at times when it was really needed.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees - Game Two Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

In July of 2018, the Yankees weren’t getting too much production out of their first basemen, as Tyler Austin, Neil Walker, and Greg Bird all underwhelmed Yankees management over the season’s first four months. That’s when the Yankees’ rolled the dice by sending Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Shreve to St. Louis for Luke Voit. Although Voit had lit up AAA pitching for the Memphis Redbirds in 2017, the then-27-year-old and former 22nd round draft pick was somewhat underwhelming himself in his limited time with the Cardinals over parts of the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

As it would turn out the Yankees gave up some value in Gallegos, but certainly received plenty in return as Voit went on to be a big-time hitter and a key contributor to some very good Yankees’ teams. Simply, the Yankees had a hole in the lineup that needed to be filled and Voit filled the void and then some.

Voit was acquired two days before the trade deadline in July of 2018 but was only playing sporadically over his first three weeks with the team. Then on August 24th, he went 3-for-5, with two bombs and four RBI in a 7-5 Yankees win in Camden Yards. (One of the long balls was a two-run shot in the top of the 10th inning to seal the win.) After that, he became a mainstay in the lineup as the everyday first baseman and tore the cover off the ball down the stretch for the 100-win Yankees. Over the remainder of the 2018 season, Voit posted an eye-popping .351/.426/.763 triple-slash line with 14 home runs in 129 PA — impressive under any circumstances but particularly valuable considering the team was without Aaron Judge in August and the first two weeks of September.

Then in 2019, despite missing time with abdominal injuries and a hernia, Voit still posted a 124 OPS+ over 510 PA, was a key cog in what was one of the best Yankees’ offenses ever, and was absolutely one of the “savages” that manager Aaron Boone referred to in his epic tirade. By that point Voit had established himself as one of the best hitting first basemen in baseball as his 139 OPS+ over 2018-2019 was only exceeded by Pete Alonso and Max Muncy among first basemen with at least 600 PA.

Although it would come in a shortened season, Voit was healthy in 2020 and progressed even further as a destroyer of baseballs. He led all of MLB with 22 long balls while posting a 158 OPS+ and 1.7 bWAR in only 56 games which earned him a ninth place finish in the AL MVP award balloting. Again, the performance was particularly valuable to the post-season-bound Yankees considering that both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton missed more than half of the 2020 season due to injuries.

Unfortunately, a string of knee and oblique problems forced Voit to miss most of the 2021 season, and he could never really get consistently untracked in the 68 games he did play. (Although most MLB players would love to consider a 109 OPS+ not getting untracked.) That, combined with the acquisition then re-signing of Anthony Rizzo, made Voit’s presence on the Yankees superfluous.

It’s unfair that Voit is most likely going to be remembered by Yankees fans for the seemingly endless string of injuries. Although frustration with a player not being on the field is understandable, fans often seem to forget that the player didn’t want to be injured, and given that’s it’s what they’ve done with the majority of their life and it’s how they earn a living, go through exponentially more frustration with injuries than fans do. It’s particularly relevant in Voit’s situation as much of his production came in stretches when the Yankees' biggest bats were out with injuries and the Yankees really needed some pop in the lineup.

Regardless, Voit is now in a city that will give him a little more leeway and also much better weather. Hopefully, things will work out for him, as I’m sure I speak for many Yankees fans when I say we’d love to see him become a savage again with the Padres.