The competition for first base just got more interesting, is there a possible trade in the works for the losing first
baseman?

This week on the podcast, the guys talked about who should win the starting spot to play first base, but let me give you my insight on what the Yankees should do with the first base position; why I feel it would be in the Yankees best interest to keep both Greg Bird and Luke Voit, and why we shouldn’t sleep on Bird, just yet.

Photo by John Ruddock on Unsplash

A couple of days ago, a report came out stating that there is the possibility of a
release or trade of the loser in the battle for first base. As we all know, this winner take all battle for first base between Greg Bird and Luke Voit during Spring Training is going to be a challenging, yet interesting one. Based on what Voit did for the Yankees during the Post-Season in 2018, majority of the fans in New York believe that Voit should be the starter; however, Bird was not going to take that lying down after a disappointing season. In fact, Bird has been reported saying he “likes a little competition” and that he “wants to win back the first base position”.

Reports have also circulated that Greg Bird never went home after the Yankees finished their season in October 2018. In fact, Bird flew straight to Tampa to continue playing baseball and practice/improve on all of his flaws. Bird also put on a reported 20 pounds during the off-season, and which if you watched the game against the Boston Red Sox on February 23, 2019, you could tell that The Birdman got big!
You may have been surprised to see Greg Bird on the list for starting at first base, but Bird went 2–2 hitting a double in his first plate appearance to the opposite field. Being a Bird fan, this was great to see! Bird looked more comfortable at the plate and is showing he is aggressive and improving on that sweet swing.

Luke Voit started the second Spring Training game against the Tampa Bay Rays on February 24, 2019, and he did not disappoint. Hitting a hard RBI single in his first plate appearance and later in the game hitting a 3-run homer. This only proves that Voit and Bird are NOT taking this competition lightly, and that the Yankees may have a hard decision if they keep this up.

Defensive Play, my vote would go to Bird. Although Bird played about double the amount of games Voit played, the stats between the two are not so comparable. Bird’s numbers were more then double what Voit put up for the Yankees. Manager Aaron Boone, as well as multiple other reporters for the Yankees, also agreed that defensively Bird has the edge over Voit. Below is the breakdown of stats, with 82 games for Bird and 39 games for Voit:

Total Chances: 542 for Bird, 232 for Voit
Putouts: 503 for Bird, 219 for Voit — Assists: 37 for Bird, 11 for Voit
Errors: 2 for Bird, 2 for Voit Double Plays: 37 for Bird, 16 for Voit

Offensive Play, this is where it gets to be debatable for me. Based on last year’s
performance, my vote would go to Voit, who proved to be a contender with the bat and as a Bird fan, I understood and agreed with the decision to keep Voit at first towards the end of last season. He was hitting the ball hard and making a compelling argument as to why he deserves to be a Yankee, a .333 batting average for Voit compared to .199 for Bird is proof enough. Let’s not forget the great balls Bird hit last year when he was “on”, including two grand slams! But my vote for last year is going to Voit, only due to consistency in great at bats.

But let’s not forget, things didn’t go well initially for Voit when he first came to the Yankees, hitting only four balls in his first seven games during 18 at bats. What seemed to be a disappointing trade by GM Brian Cashman, eventually turned around. Voit was sent to the Minors on August 13, where he credits Phil Plantier for helping improve his swing. Well, I think it’s safe to say, give that guy a raise because WOW! Voit came back with much improvement and shocked everyone. This just shows the hard work and determination Voit has to prove himself to the Yankees and New York.

Here’s my opinion on why Bird struggled last year, his ankle. We could all see that Bird just looked uncomfortable and awkward in his stance at home plate.
Something was clearly off and it showed in his swing. I feel his ankle was not fully recovered and that he didn’t have 100% mobility. Most doctors would probably clear a regular “man on the street” with the same ankle surgery as Bird with around 75% mobility. One would like to think with Bird being an MLB player, doctors would wait until the ankle had at least 90% or higher mobility. Maybe they did think that, players are known to try and get back from an injury sooner then they should and typically we see those players play poorly as a result. With Bird, my hope this offseason was that he stay healthy and get stronger, especially on that ankle, and come back looking like The Birdman. After watching that first Spring Training game, I think it’s safe to say that he absolutely did that. This also shows Bird’s hard work and determination to prove himself to the Yankees and New York once again.

Something else to note is that Voit is another right-handed hitter, while Bird is one of the few left-handed hitters currently on the roster. This could be an advantage for the Yankees as they could utilize a left-handed hitter to add balance to their lineup, especially since we lost one of our best left-handed hitters, Didi Gregorius. Now look, a good hitter is a good hitter, regardless of what side of the plate they stand on. If you have a line-up of great right-handed hitters who can hit just as well or better with a right-handed pitcher to a left-handed pitcher, you don’t need to worry about balance; however, not having that balance may be more harmful then we think. Opposing teams can certainly take advantage of an all right-handed batting lineup and plan their pitching rotation out accordingly. It could also hurt the Yankees by not having that left-handed hitter, who can help advance a runner when a lefty hits towards right field. Although there are a lot of compelling pro and con
arguments, it’s not one that will 100% sway my decision between these two guys. Both Bird and Voit can and have hit well against both right and left-handed pitchers in their careers, and I feel will continue to do so. I will give Bird the slight advantage though, I think the Yankees need an additional left-handed hitter while Gregorius recovers.

There is also reports swirling around that whoever loses the first base spot may go down to the Minors, until proven they can perform better or someone gets injured. If you want my personal opinion, I would rather them trade Bird or Voit then send them back to the Minors as that is even more of a slap in the face to the already beaten down player who lost their position.

Whoever wins the starting position spot for first base; I still feel the Yankees should keep both Bird and Voit on their active roster. I know this may not be ideal for the Yankees, but I firmly believe that every position needs to have a backup. DJ LeMahieu has been reported to be a back up for first base, but I would rather have LeMahieu be a starter or backup for second base and shortstop while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John. With Troy Tulowitzki’s health up in the air, Gleyber Torres will be your starting shortstop meaning LeMahieu will start at second base. Having both Bird and Voit lined up for first will give both players days off to rest and recover, and as long as Bird and Voit keep up the performance at home plate, these two could also be contenders for DH during the season. This would also relieve Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton from constantly playing DH, and provide them
with a days rest.

Overall after seeing both Greg Bird and Luke Voit’s performance this past weekend, I cannot say who will win the starting first base position. Voit looked as strong as he did at the end of last season and Bird looked much improved. There are still a lot of games left in Spring Training, so we can’t decide who will win the starting position based off of just two games. But as a Yankee fan, I’m looking forward to seeing what these next few weeks of games will provide, and what kind of performance we will see from these two players.

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