Greg Bird is like a lottery ticket- you’re never going to win, but you keep on trying anyway. Through 73 games this year, Bird has registered a .679 OPS, good for 35th among first basemen with at least 250 plate appearances, and that includes a .435 OPS this month.
Yet, we keep coming back to him. He filled in admirably for Mark Teixeira in 2015 when he hit 11 home runs and produced an OPS+ of 135 across 46 games. That is the best we’ve seen from the Memphis native, drafted by the Yankees 2011 in hopes of becoming the team’s first legitimate homegrown first baseman since Don Mattingly.
Bird missed all of 2016, only played in 48 games last year and missed more time this year. His bat has been rendered silent by the shift.
Voit, acquired by the Yankees in exchange for Chasen Shreve, Giovanny Gallegos and international signing money back on July 29th, has posted an .896 OPS and wRC+ of 143 this month (albeit in 28 plate appearances), and has three home runs in his last ten at-bats.
In the home stretch of the season, the Yankees find themselves six games behind Boston, and Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez will be back within a week, in time for a crucial West Coast road trip featuring games against the A’s and Mariners, two teams in hot pursuit of the Yankees for the first wild card spot.
Despite the good news, the Yankees can no longer tolerate Bird’s lack of production. Many Yankees fans have been fervent defenders of Bird, myself included. But no more.
Part of being a productive player includes staying on the field, which Bird has failed to do. Voit has a skill set similar to Bird’s, with the power and promising plate discipline. Voit is under team control through 2024.
Voit could enter a slump very soon, no doubt. But the Yankees rank just 26th in wRC+ at first base, and constantly sorting through Neil Walker, Bird, and not playing the hot hand in Voit creates instability. A bad problem? No, but keeping Voit as the incumbent first baseman gives Aaron Boone a red-hot slugger facing White Sox and Tigers rotations that rank 25th and 21st in ERA, respectively.
Voit could prove to be instrumental in an abruptly intensifying AL East title race. At worst, he’s a minimal upgrade over the embattled Greg Bird. For now, however, Voit has earned his keep, and could maintain his status one of the best hitters in baseball this month going into September.