The Yankees, who have maintained an above-average offense for years now, have been unable to secure such production from its first basemen since 2015.
Mark Teixeira skidded out the door in 2016, Greg Bird has underwhelmed overall since his call-up, and we won't get into Chris Carter et al. circa 2017 fiasco. Luke Voit put on an amazing show over the final month-plus of 2018, but he's pretty much all bat.
As the Yankees seek to bolster their roster for the 2019 season, who should man first base for the Bombers?
Bye, bye Birdie?
We used to hear the phrase, "Bye, bye Birdie," after one of Bird's home runs. Now, it is used as a farewell wish by some fans. Bird, who will be just 26 years old in 2019, has been one of the more disappointing players in the organization in recent seasons.
Between the injuries and the lack of production since his 2015 call-up -- minus his 2017 postseason performance and a handful of well-timed homers -- Bird's time with the Yankees is closing in on its shelf life. Bird can no longer get by on the fact that, "His swing is built for Yankee Stadium." His decline has the Yankees wondering whether he is worth a roster spot, especially as he readies for his first arbitration hearing in February.
The Yankees claim they will give Bird a chance to compete for the first base job in spring training, but the leash will likely be small enough to wrap around a bird's neck.
The late bloomer
When Voit arrived as part of a trade deadline deal, the money coming to the Yankees for their international bonus pool seemed like the headliner. Voit had more than moderate success in the minors, but being blocked in St. Louis led in part to his lengthy minor league stay.
He made the most of this second trip to the Bronx after his first visit was uninspiring. Voit hit .333 and smashed 14 home runs in 129 plate appearances from August 24 through the end of the season, which left Bird on the bench. Voit fell back to Earth some in the postseason, hitting .235 with four RBI in 21 plate appearances.
Voit, who will play 2019 as a 28-year-old, is built like a boulder and plays like one at first base. What he did at the plate should not be too much of a surprise based on his minor league track record. Nor should we be shocked that he's a one-dimensional player at first base when reviewing the same history.
A name on the trade market that will pop up quite often is Paul Goldschmidt. The Diamondbacks might drop back into a rebuild and dealing their premier first baseman as he enters the final year of his deal would bring back a strong prospect haul.
Even if Arizona took Bird or Voit in such a trade, those players would be far from the headliner of the deal. The Diamondbacks would surely try to land a couple of the Yankees' top prospects, meaning a good deal of thinking on New York's part.
The Yankees could also check in on White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who is in the final season of his contract.
The Yankees are expected to be heavy lifters in the free agent market this winter, though the crop of players at first base is not all that appealing. Most players are platoon types (think Matt Adams) or best suited for utility roles (like Marwin Gonzalez).
If the Yankees want to sign Bryce Harper without restructuring their outfield (Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge from left to right) the Yanks could see if the 26-year-old would be willing to sign as a first baseman. Harper offered to play first for the Nationals at one point this past season and the rumor mill speculated he may have helped the Yankees in that role if a trade could have been consummated by the clubs.
Harper is going to net an extremely large contract, likely a deal in the $300+ million range over 8-10 seasons. The Yankees might get involved in the bidding, but they could also be among Manny Machado's suitors, with similar salary expectations to consider.
Harper would have to be openly willing to shift to first base and the Yankees would have to believe he is a better fit over Machado if they want to make a singular splash (as the Yanks need to spend on starting pitching). Harper at first base would give the Yankees a bonafide star at a position that has lacked that distinction for several years.
If the Yankees pursue Machado, it is not necessarily a sure thing that they would have him play shortstop while Didi Gregorius recuperates from Tommy John surgery. The Yankees could place Machado at third base (his better defensive position) while Gleyber Torres and Tyler Wade could interchangeably play shortstop and second base.
That scenario would displace Miguel Andujar, which makes for an interesting conversation of whether he could handle first base. Andujar has issues at third base, and while first base is not as demanding as the hot corner, it does take some getting used to. The Yankees will have a slew of moving parts this offseason and shifting Andujar off third base is a potential reality as a means to keep him bat in the lineup.
It is doubtful the Yankees eye the "first baseman" free agent market as their first choice, but trading for Goldschmidt is a legitimate option if the Diamondbacks make him available. A push for Goldschmidt would become increasingly likely if the Yanks fail to land Machado or Harper after making large efforts to do so.
The most obvious direction here -- and the more likely path -- is a spring training competition between Bird and Voit. Who knows, maybe a platoon will emerge?
Andujar would likely get some reps at first base if Machado is aboard, depending on where the latter would be expected to play. An in-house resolution at first base would allow the Yankees to spend elsewhere as each of those three players would be making far less salary than the alternatives.