Often times, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman doesn’t get the proper credit due to the idea that he has a blank checkbook. In the George Steinbrenner era, that argument could be made, but now the Yankees are an organization that prides itself on analytics, player development, and understanding that the number one payroll does not always translate to a World Series.
Cashman has earned praise over the last several seasons where the Yankees rebuilt on the fly making some trades that have looked like steals. In a move that didn’t seem too major at the time, the Yankees traded pitchers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos to the St. Louis Cardinals for first baseman Luke Voit and international pool money. Shreve was designated for assignment by the club, and Voit was another inexpensive player with minor-league options to provide depth behind Greg Bird.
Now, the Yankees practically have a starting lineup on the injured list, and Voit’s production can’t come at a more important time. They are currently on a 10-game road trip where Voit has carried the load earning American League Player of the Week honors. Voit has always shown flashes of hitting at the big-league level with the Cardinals, however, Matt Carpenter was blocking him from getting consistent at-bats.
It’s even more impressive that Voit, who has been a power hitter for all of his professional career, has hit for average too with an on-base percentage just shy of .392 due to a 40-game on-base streak. For a lot of players, it simply comes down to opportunity, and Voit has run with his.
When Voit was first traded to the Yankees, he started in Triple-A before making his mark and bursting on the scene in a late August series against the Baltimore Orioles. In 2018, Voit hit .333 with 14 home runs and a 1.095 OPS. Voit became one of Aaron Boone‘s most reliable hitters in a lineup that is filled with proven sluggers.
It’s also worth noting that a starting job was not a given for Voit, who was in a battle with Bird for the first baseman job. For a team with World Series aspirations, there was even the possibility of signing a free agent because of uncertainty that Voit could do it over a 162-game span.
Perhaps the competition fueled Voit to have a strong spring, especially since he has been an underdog, despite being one of the hottest hitters in baseball. Only Christian Yelich has more home runs and RBIs since August 28 of last year. Injuries gave Boone the ability to pivot from making a decision on sending one of the first basemen to Triple-A for now, but as Voit continues to produce, it’s obvious which decision the Yankees will eventually make.
The Voit trade is very similar to the trade Cashman made in 2015 when he acquired outfielder Aaron Hicks from the Minnesota Twins for catcher John Ryan Murphy. Like Voit, Hicks had major-league experience, but a lot of untapped potential before his arrival in the Bronx. Cashman did the same when he brought in shortstop Didi Gregorius who was not the player, at least offensively, that he is now with the Yankees.
The Yankees are currently in second place in the AL East, trailing the Tampa Bay Rays with a schedule in their favor. Injuries are the biggest story surrounding the team, but the play from this 25-man group is the reason why they have succeeded, regardless of who is healthy. The Yankees have already had some players return such as Gary Sanchez, and Miguel Andujar and Troy Tulowitzki are beginning rehab assignments this week.
Andujar’s return could have an impact on Voit, as the Yankees have discussed the idea of giving Andujar starts at first base to make up for his defensive issues and as a way for him to avoid what would be season-ending surgery so he can keep his bat in the lineup. Whatever they decide to do, it’s clear Voit needs to play every day whether it’s at first base, or as the designated hitter.
There hasn’t been much news regarding Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge is expected to be out for a while, according to Boone, so Voit’s production is that much more crucial. With that said, it’s time for Voit to be considered one of the Yankees top hitters, even when the club is at full strength. If the Yankees have any hopes of contending this season, Voit needs to be a key contributor, no matter the other big names on the team.