What the Yankees Adding Anthony Rizzo Means For Luke Voit

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MIAMI — Luke Voit didn't change teams at the Trade Deadline, but when he returns from the injured list, he'll certainly have a new role.

While the first baseman works back from his third stint on the IL in 2021, the Yankees reportedly shopped Voit around, looking to potentially move the slugger before Friday's Deadline passed. 

New York didn't trade their slugger, but they did acquire Anthony Rizzo, a first baseman that's exponentially better on the defensive side of the ball, providing manager Aaron Boone with a left-handed bat to balance his starting lineup on a daily basis.

So, where does that leave Voit when it comes to finding playing time once he's cleared to rejoin the big-league club?

"We'll see," Boone said Friday afternoon. "Things change day-to-day all the time, and certainly have with us over the last few years. So obviously, we know what we have in a really good player with Luke. We'll see how the days unfold. But right now it's about getting him just back up to speed and getting some game reps under his belt."

Voit faced live pitching—during a Luis Severino sim game—at Tropicana Field on Thursday in the hours leading up to New York's series finale against the Rays. Rather than traveling with the team to Miami, the first baseman stuck around in Tampa on Friday, working out again and getting more live at-bats at New York's complex.

Giving an update on when Voit is expected to return from his left knee injury, Boone said the first baseman could be back before the end of the road trip, although he hinted at the possibility of a rehab assignment.

General manager Brian Cashman watched Voit go through his workout in Tampa on Friday, emphasizing the slugger's health as a way for him to factor into the Bombers' equation.

"He needs to knock some rust off now," Cashman said. "I had a chance to see Voit's offense today, he faced some live pitching, got a chance to see him run the bases, got a chance to see him work on his defense. So that was good to see that he's healthy and trending in the right direction."

Even when Voit is healthy, it's going to be hard to take Rizzo out of the starting lineup. Especially if the lefty is clubbing mammoth home runs and contributing on both sides of the ball, like Rizzo did in his debut on Friday night. 

In other words, while the Yankees are remorseful about the challenges Voit has faced so far this season, they understood this week that an upgrade at the first base position would give this club a better chance to accomplish their goals and distance themselves from a disappointing start to the season. 

"We're sorry about Luke Voit's season, the way it's gone thus far, but obviously we have a two month sprint now to try to push ourselves into the postseason and take a shot at the ultimate prize," Cashman said. "We felt this enhances those opportunities for us."

One possible avenue for Voit to snag some playing time once he's healthy is if Giancarlo Stanton can play the outfield, opening up the designated hitter spot. Stanton has occupied that hole for 81 games this year, but he returned to the outfield on defense for the first time in almost two years on Friday.

That was a necessity with New York playing in a National League ballpark, though. When this team returns to the Bronx, it's unlikely that Stanton will play the outfield routinely (although he's been positioning himself to make that a more consistent part of his game for quite some time).

In last year's pandemic-shortened season. Voit mashed 22 homers to lead all of Major League Baseball. He's shown at times this year that last season's outburst wasn't a fluke, but until he can stay on the field, Cashman's move to upgrade at his position will be at the forefront of the conversation. 

Once Voit is healthy and swinging a hot bat, however, it's a different story. Then, the Yankees will have a surplus of sluggers and some decisions to make each time Boone fills out his lineup card. 

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