For the first time in a while, the New York Yankees (or at least someone in the organization) read the room and delivered the fans a bit of much-needed hope during the wasteful months of the MLB lockout.
Prior to the owners halting all things baseball, the Yankees did nothing. Well, we shouldn’t say that. Stuff did happen. They re-signed Joely Rodriguez. They traded Tyler Wade to the Angels. They released Clint Frazier and Chris Gittens. They tendered a contract to everyone else who was eligible.
But in terms of addressing needs and creating less drama, they either did nothing or made everything worse. They willingly dove head first into the lockout without extending Aaron Judge, and creating more of a controversy at shortstop. They even failed to merely add depth to quiet concerns with regard to center field (does Ender Inciarte count?), first base, the starting rotation and bullpen.
On Saturday, though, one pipe dream of a large sect of the fan base took one massive leap toward reality. MLB insider Jon Heyman reported the Yankees are ready to “take a run” (probably “make a run”?) at Freddie Freeman when the lockout ends.
An upgrade of that caliber would quiet the criticisms pertaining to a lack of spending and unwillingness to go above and beyond to regain a stranglehold over the AL East. Signing Freeman would create a 180 in team/fan morale.
Not for one specific player, however. What does this mean for Luke Voit, who, just one year ago, was ready to tackle 2021 after starting throughout all of 2020 and leading the league in home runs?
Is the writing on the wall for Luke Voit after the Yankees-Freddie Freeman rumors?
As happy as Yankees supporters are to hear of the interest in Freeman, there is a sort of bittersweet feeling. Voit has been a fan favorite ever since arriving in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals back in 2018. He’s been nothing but a powerhouse when healthy (.271 average, 68 homers, 182 RBI, 137 OPS+) and brings a lost form of energy to the clubhouse with his passion and intensity.
But the front office revealed its frustration with his injuries when Anthony Rizzo was acquired at the trade deadline. Then, Voit was benched down the stretch despite being healthy and manager Aaron Boone failing to create room for him in the lineup (he never even explored the possibility of Voit at DH, Giancarlo Stanton in left field, and Joey Gallo in center field).
It’s hard to believe Voit, who’s expected to make $5.4 million in 2022, will volunteer to be a backup first baseman, part-time DH, pinch hitter or bench player. That’s why you have to imagine his trade market will quickly materialize if the Yankees’ interest in Freeman is real. Voit is still under team control through 2024 and he won’t be actively choosing to devalue himself on the field during these all-important years.
It’s also insane to think that the Yankees currently do not have a backup first baseman, meaning fans are looking at DJ LeMahieu being next in line to assume such duties. The good news, however, is that Freeman is an iron man of sorts, missing just 54 games since the start of 2016. Perhaps those in opposition to DJLM playing more first base feel better about that possibility if Freeman’s the starter.
That scenario also helps the Yankees emphasize LeMahieu elsewhere (being they’re stuck with his contract) with Gleyber Torres shifting back over to second and Gio Urshela potentially seeing more reps at shortstop (or being traded as well). Urshela’s departure alongside Voit, something that would be fairly deflating, would save the Yankees over $10 million in salary, which would help counteract Freeman’s likely $30 million AAV. It all plays into what many fans think the Yankees want to do: infuse the roster with a new group of players but by taking as few risks as possible.
With Freeman probably being among the safest free agent options and Voit’s (and others’) potential departure helping the team save money, you’re looking at something that might unfold rather quickly when a new CBA is signed.
Whenever that will be.