Platoons don't always work, but the Yankees could benefit nicely from a loose timeshare at first base this season.
As Luke Voit seeks to cement his place at the top of the first base depth chart for the Yankees, Greg Bird lurks as a potential threat to recapture the job. Regardless of which way this competition pans out in Spring Training, the Yankees need both players to find and maintain consistent production.
For as fantastic as Voit was late last season, there should be some caution when recalling Bird's first venture to the big leagues, one in which he came out as "the first baseman of Yankees' future." That was 2015. Obviously, things can change.
Voit has not endured the injury spectrum that Bird has, but the big right-handed hitter is 28 years old. Maybe Voit is indeed a late bloomer, one who was simply blocked by better players in St. Louis and he'll keep rolling in 2019. Or, maybe Voit had an amazing run beyond what anyone could have predicted, a stretch that he'll never duplicate or worse - fall well short trying. Time will tell.
To suggest that Voit has the first base job in lockdown is a potential error. All it takes is a Voit meltdown in Spring Training while Bird puts on a clinic at the plate. The Yankees are desperate for left-handed hitting power and Bird can provide it. There won't be any hesitation if that scenario pans out for Bird to retake the job. If he's upright, of course.
For Bird, this appears to be his last chance to make a statement in a Yankee uniform. The talent is there and it is difficult to go from possessing "the best swing in the organization" as Yankees GM Brian Cashman once stated to a sub-Mendoza-line performer without believing health played a part in the decline. Bird was able to rest for an entire two months because he was not rehabbing an injury, which has him believing in himself.
Bird's chances of heading north with the Yankees are hampered because the club's 25-man roster will be jammed up if everyone makes it through Spring Training healthy. This hardly ever happens, so it's important for Bird's prospects (assuming Voit is not a disaster) that a bench spot becomes open because right now, on paper, it's not there. Bird could also gain from the Yankees not using an eight-man bullpen, meaning another bat could be added to the bench mix.
Both Voit and Bird have options to be shipped to the minors, so there is a chance that they do some flip-flopping based on performance, but the Yankees would likely rather maintain consistency from one or the other or better, both. If that means one of the two stays at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for periods of time so be it.
However, if the Yankees can figure out a way to balance time between Voit and Bird on the big league roster, each player could very well thrive. Splitting time doesn't have to be courtesy of a strict handedness platoon, but instead one which utilizes the vast analytic information the Yankees possess to put the player with the best opportunity for each particular game into the lineup.
No matter how we view the Yankees' first base dynamic, it is very likely that the player on the short end of playing time might receive 200-250 or so plate appearances, which is not a small number. In fact, there can be significant upside gained from that many reps. In that regard, the Yankees offense might prosper with Voit and Bird splitting 750 plate appearances.
It's possible Voit will continue to wreak havoc on opposing pitchers and Bird will succumb to the fragility narrative as many believe. However, the Yankees would benefit immensely from solid production from both players and will surely keep their options open as the regular season approaches.