Yankees make right decision with Jay Bruce’s replacement


In more ways than one in 2021, the Yankees have specifically not been built Ford Tough.

Hopefully, they took a significant step in changing that on Tuesday.

On Sunday morning, veteran outfielder-turned-first-baseman Jay Bruce announced his intention to retire rather than continue his struggles in pinstripes, a sad ending for a player who could’ve been a valued temporary leader on this roster in Luke Voit’s stead, at least for the season’s first month and a half.

Prior to Tuesday’s action (after spending one game with a retired player on their active bench), the Yankees replaced Bruce with a true first baseman.

Princeton’s own Mike Ford will join the team on Tuesday, and will hopefully get the bulk of the playing time until Voit’s return, which we believe to be mid-May.

If the offense can’t be upgraded, at least the defense can be.

The Yankees promoted Mike Ford in Jay Bruce’s place.

Ford is, at the very least, an average defender and a natural at the position, instead of a round peg shoved in a square hole like Bruce was (remember when the Yankees almost traded Mike Tauchman to make room for Bruce?).

In 2019, Ford essentially dominated as a backup first baseman on the “Next Man Up” Yankees. What more could you ask for, honestly, having been given a .259/.350/.559 triple-slash with just 28 Ks in 163 PAs? A 136 OPS+? I mean, truly. Very solid.

If Voit is back by mid-May as anticipated, 2019 Ford would be most welcome, though 2020 Ford would not be. The defense at least made sense during Ford’s extended slump last year, but his remarkably frigid bat took him off the team’s map a bit (though somehow it didn’t stop him from getting playoff at-bats). In a tough year for everyone, Ford hit just .135 with no power. His OPS+ dipped to 38, which is almost hard to believe.

Ford, coming off a solid spring (.259/.286/.407), simply needs to be rock steady. The Yankees are asking him only to be a relative improvement on Bruce for the next month or so.

If they’re wise, they’ll try trotting him out as a de facto starter right away, moving DJ LeMahieu back to his natural position of second base, and sending Rougned Odor to the bench regularly, where he’ll be much more valuable.