Who will play first base for the New York Yankees? That’s the question people are asking themselves these days, besides who will man shortstop, of course. But the Bombers don’t seem entirely sold on Luke Voit as a long-term solution, even though he has three years of team control remaining.
Let’s examine their options, in order of likelihood:
Luke Voit: The Yankees like Voit’s bat. He has hit .270/.362/.519 with a 136 OPS since 2018 and led the league in homers in the shortened 2020 campaign. Unfortunately, he spent most of last season battling knee and oblique issues, and the Bombers traded for Anthony Rizzo.
There are two problems with Voit: health and defense. He is very bad with a glove in his hand, and last year showed he can have chronic issues with his knee. Nevertheless, the Yankees could very well give him another chance to defend his position, and focus the big bucks on bringing in a star shortstop.
DJ LeMahieu: So far, we know that Gleyber Torres will play second base for the Yankees. Gio Urshela could theoretically play shortstop (it’s more difficult to imagine him doing it on a daily basis in reality), but the rest of the infield is a question mark. If the Yankees deal Voit for help at another position and can’t bring in another first baseman, LeMahieu can play there.
During the Yankees’ first base crisis of 2021, LeMahieu started 33 games there and was solid defensively. He will have to perform with the stick, though, as he was league-average last year as his 100 wRC+ indicates.
Anthony Rizzo: The Yankees traded for Rizzo last year to fill in for Voit when he was injured. Overall, he was a positive clubhouse and dugout presence and a plus defender at first base, but he showed he is already declining with the bat.
Rizzo was a 145-155 wRC+ player at his peak, between 2014-16, but he finished at 102 and 112 in the last two seasons and had an underwhelming .768 OPS with the Yankees. They should be wary about overpaying for a declining asset.
Matt Olson: The Yankees need a first baseman and some pitchers, and are probably reluctant to go to free agency and spend $200 million or $300 million on a single player. The Oakland Athletics has lots of pitchers who they want to trade to cut some payroll, and they are in the same situation with slugging first baseman Matt Olson. A deal makes too much sense.
The problem, for the Yankees, is that other teams may be in on Olson and the A’s pitchers: Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt, and Frankie Montas. If they play their cards right, they could get the All-Star first sacker, who is a plus defender and had a career season in 2021 (.271/.371/.540, 39 home runs, 111 RBI, 146 wRC+).
Freddie Freeman: The longest of long shots. Freeman should be a Brave for life, but Atlanta didn’t re-sign their 2020 MVP and 2021 World Series champion before the lockout. That could be a costly mistake, as he will surely listen to other offers.
Freeman is already 32 and is said to be seeking a six-year deal. Despite his age, he remains an elite offensive player, as he hit 31 home runs and scored 120 runs last season, with a .300/.393/.503 line, a 135 wRC+, and an explosive postseason.
Other: The four names mentioned in this article are the likeliest options for the Yankees at first base, but that doesn’t mean they can’t pursue another player. They could go with free agent Brad Miller, or make a surprising trade.
All things considered, the Yankees do have some alternatives to consider at first base, but it will likely depend on what they do at shortstop.
Andrés Chávez loves the game of baseball and writes about it at Beyond the Box Score, Pinstripe Alley, and other sites. He is on Twitter as @andres_chavez13