Trading Luke Voit has become a conversation starter on the Yankees’ corner of the internet. Talk about the Yankees online long enough and someone will invariably bring up trading him. It makes some sense. Such a proposal shows a keen understanding of baseball economics: Voit’s pre-arbitration days are over, which means that he will collect a hefty raise this offseason. (MLB Trade Rumors estimates somewhere between $4-8 million, depending on the model.) Trade him now, in other words, and spend that money elsewhere.
It also seems to be a way to demonstrate creativity and to show a willingness to think outside of the box. A fan suggesting to trade Voit, who was one of baseball’s best players in 2020, shows shows that they are serious: as the old maxim goes, a realistic trade proposal is one that hurts both sides.
Unfortunately, it is also a very dumb idea. The Yankees should not trade Luke Voit. There are many reasons why, but let’s choose the three most obvious ones today.
Luke Voit is Extremely Good
It is easiest to start with the basics: Luke Voit is an extremely good baseball player. It is okay to admit this now. I didn’t think he was a very good baseball player when the Yankees traded for him in 2018 either. But that was nearly 900 MLB plate appearances ago. We have learned a lot about Luke Voit since then.
All he has done with those New York plate appearances is hit .279/.372/.543 (144 wRC+) with 57 home runs. He has walked 11.5% of the time (league average is between 8-9%) and his under-the-hood expected stats show that he is no fluke. (Not that we needed more proof that he is legit, as this was a conversation we had after 2018 and again after 2019.) There is no way around it: Luke Voit is a very good baseball player.
In fact, he has carried the Yankees right when they’ve most needed him. He did it in 2018, when he burst onto the stage and momentarily transformed into the best hitter in baseball. He did it again in the first half of 2019, when the Yankees were a walking emergency room visit. (I still believe that Voit’s injury really kneecapped the Yankee offense in the 2019 playoffs.)And he did it throughout 2020, when the Yankees were again a walking emergency room visit and had very little else going on for them. The latter performance earned him a bunch of well-deserved MVP votes.
He’s even done a lot of this while nursing significant injuries. The point here is pretty clear and it is inarguable: you want more Luke Voits on your team, not fewer Luke Voits. In other words, the Yankees, as a win-now team, should not be subtracting Luke Voits from their roster.
Big Name Trades Don’t Work That Way
Here is a challenge: when was the last time a big name player was traded in baseball that brought back a package even close to what you expected? It is probably Chris Sale, but I can’t say that it’s easy to think of one. Last year’s big prize, Mookie Betts, brought back a nice player in Alex Verdugo and a nice prospect in Jeter Downs. As far as these things go, it’s not that bad of a return – but it certainly was not the same as having Mookie Betts.
Francisco Lindor, believed to be this offseason’s big prize, is why I bring this up. Most Luke Voit trade proposals are centered around him. It makes sense, and I’m not opposed to trading Luke Voit for Francisco Lindor. I just doubt it would take Luke Voit to get him. That’s because of the fact that Voit is about to get a few big raises.
Playoff teams trade players like Francisco Lindor because they are cheap, not because they want to win. They want a different kind of player than Luke Voit – they want the 2018 version of Luke Voit, the unheralded player nobody else has heard of who is about to dramatically over-perform his salary. Although Voit will still not earn a salary commensurate with his performance, the gap will shrink each year. And he’s getting older, too.
No, if the Yankees are going to trade for Francisco Lindor, the package almost certainly will not include Luke Voit. He’s just not the type of player who gets moved in a trade like that. (Even if he’s the sort of player I’d want back, if I rooted for Cleveland.) Trading Luke Voit is not likely to result in a good pitcher with a lot of team control, either. Players like that – the sort that Yankee fans imagine when they concoct “trade Luke Voit” scenarios – get moved for prospects. Luke Voit is not a prospect: he is fully-formed.
It’s Something the Rays Would Do
The Yankees have a good player who is about to earn a significant raise in arbitration. Trading Voit now exudes extreme Rays energy. Voit has shown that he is a legitimate middle-of-the-order force on a contending team. The Yankees should not be like the Rays, who will probably trade Blake Snell despite having the most successful season in their history. (They managed to lose the World Series in 6 games this time, not 5!)
The difference between the Yankees and teams like the Rays is that the Yankees can do what the Rays do best (identify good, unheralded players) while also keeping them when they get “expensive.” Then, while maintaining that good core of players, they continue to supplement that core with additional good players – not subtract from it. That is how the Dodgers defeated the Rays in the World Series just this very season. It is a strategy the Yankees should continue to deploy as well.
Trading Luke Voit, one of the Yankees best players, right when he is about to get a raise, is exactly what the Tampa Bay Rays would do. That should be reason enough for the Yankees not to do it.
These have been three reasons why the Yankees should not trade Luke Voit, but there are more. Yankees players get hurt all of the time. Their roster should include as many good players as possible to counterbalance this reality. It helps with load management, too. And who is going to play first base with Voit gone?
But the simplest reason is that the Yankees are a better team with Luke Voit on it. The point is to win baseball games. Let’s not overthink how to do that.