With Mike Ford no lock to make the Yankees Opening Day roster, and Miguel Andujar just beginning to learn how to play first base, a healthy Luke Voit is out ahead of the competition for the everyday job, for now.
The Yankees No. 1 priority this offseason was signing Gerrit Cole — which they did to the richest contract ever bestowed to a pitcher, nine years, $324 million. Next on the docket was re-signing Brett Gardner.
With Aaron Hicks out of action until August as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, there’s no one the club trusted more to man centerfield than the 12-year veteran.
Yet despite leaving Luke Voit off the ALCS roster, the Yankees never seriously looked for an upgrade at first base. Because Didi Gregorius left for Philadelphia, Gleyber Torres will man shortstop as D.J. LeMahieu slides back to his Gold Glove-winning second base position.
Naturally, the Yanks could have backed themselves up by trading for a young star such as Josh Bell of the Pirates, or signing a low-risk, solid left-handed hitter with a plus glove like Justin Smoak.
But GM Brian Cashman must have taken a pass because he genuinely believes in the abilities of a healthy Luke Voit. Recently speaking with George King III of the NY Post, Voit said that he is fully recovered from the sports hernia injury that derailed his 2019 campaign.
“I have never felt any better in my life. It’s everything. I feel faster, more agile and my strength is back.”
Voit, who will turn 29 on Feb. 13, the same day pitchers and catchers are to report to Tampa, FLA is ecstatic about the Bombers’ chances this season.
“One of the best teams in baseball,” Voit said when asked about the 2020 Yankees. “It’s an elite team, elite starting pitching and an elite lineup.”
Since his arrival to the Bronx in July 2018, Voit has been a lightning rod for riling up his teammates — in a good way, of course. Always one of the first guys at the top of the steps for a celebratory congratulations, Voit’s energy is contagious.
Before initially straining an abdominal injury on June 30 versus the Red Sox in London, Voit was hitting .280 with 17 home runs, 50 RBIs and a .901 OPS. Although his defense still left a lot to be desired, the Yanks seemed to settle in on Voit’s upside and $583.5K contract.
However, two lengthy IL stints and a sports hernia diagnosis not only allowed Mike Ford to show he could hit big-league pitching (12 homers, 25 RBIs and a .909 OPS in 50 games), but Gio Urshela’s breakout season forced the organization to re-think the future position of 2018 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar.
As we are now aware, Andujar will learn the nuances of both first base and left field this spring, in hopes of making the Yankees 26-man roster.
Therefore, the Yanks now have three very capable offensive threats that each lack defensive polish to their game. And while that could lead to a potential opening for Ford’s left-handed bat, not to mention Andujar’s reemergence as a game-changing talent following surgery for a torn labrum, New York is prepared to go with their most trusted option at first base, Luke Voit.
So yes, Voit will likely get the nod at first base — as long as he hits the way he’s shown in the past and limits the number of mistakes in the field. Should either of the two fail to occur, then the Yanks will be forced to make a change, but Voit won’t have anyone to blame but himself.