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4 first-base options Yanks should target

MLB.com @feinsand

With a few days remaining in Spring Training, Greg Bird was the hottest hitter in the state of Florida. Firmly ensconced at first base, Bird was supposed to solidify the position for the Yankees for the foreseeable future.

Yet here we are in early July and first base has been the Yankees' black hole, the result of a fluke injury to Bird, subpar production from Chris Carter and the lack of any other legitimate options through the season's first three months.

With a few days remaining in Spring Training, Greg Bird was the hottest hitter in the state of Florida. Firmly ensconced at first base, Bird was supposed to solidify the position for the Yankees for the foreseeable future.

Yet here we are in early July and first base has been the Yankees' black hole, the result of a fluke injury to Bird, subpar production from Chris Carter and the lack of any other legitimate options through the season's first three months.

Ten different players have occupied first base for at least one inning this season for the Yankees, who have employed seven starters (Bird, Carter, Matt Holliday, Rob Refsnyder, Austin Romine, Tyler Austin and Ji-Man Choi) at the position through their first 83 games.

Choi may be the latest player trying to seize the job, but general manager Brian Cashman will continue to look for a more permanent solution in the event that Bird isn't able to come back from his mysteriously lingering injury.

"It's not unusual; the job as a general manager, no matter what sport it is, is to try to fix problems," Cashman said. "It's not as easy as you have a bed and you need new sheets, so you just go to Bed Bath & Beyond, go shopping and cash out. It's not that easy in an industry where the talent pool is not easily accessible -- especially when you're looking for a plug-and-play instant upgrade."

Bird, who has been out since May 2 with a bone bruise in his right ankle after fouling a ball off his leg late in the spring, will see more doctors next week as the Yankees try to figure out what's ailing him. The Yanks are still holding out hope that Bird will return, but with fewer than four weeks until the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, time and patience are running out.
 
"He's been to seven, eight, nine doctors, all of which can't figure out why he's having problems," Cashman said. "The tests are negative, the bone bruise is healed, but when he lands on his right foot and rotates it, it's sore and it affects his kinetic chain and he starts getting sore hamstrings, sore hips, sore this, sore that because he's compensating. We can't figure it out."

The Yankees' .668 OPS from their first basemen this season is ahead of only the Angels (.620), a whopping 170 points below the Major League average at the position this season. This hasn't been a one-year issue, either; last season, the Yanks had a .673 OPS at first base, tied with the Nationals for the worst in baseball.

"First base is probably the worst productive position it feels like in the history of baseball," Cashman said. "It feels that way, and it might very well be that. We'll see. Because of that, it's a major focus."

Cashman might be focused on fixing first base, but that doesn't mean he'll do it any time soon. Like most GMs, he said it's "still kind of early" for major deals to be made, leaving him patching together the position while his medical staff assesses Bird's status going forward. 

"The bulk of the activity won't happen until the last 10 days of July," Cashman said. "That's the nature of the beast; you have a problem, how do you choose to fix it? There will be some extravagant prices out there, there will be some cheap additions available, or you can decide to tread water and wait for the internal options to come back, which could be what we do with Bird. We just haven't plotted that course yet." 

So who might the Yankees target between now and July 31? Here's a look at some potential candidates:

Lucas Duda
Duda -- who owns a .908 OPS this season -- seems like a natural fit for the Yankees, who love left-handed sluggers in their hitter-friendly ballpark. The Yanks and Mets don't do business together very often, but GM Sandy Alderson's market of teams seeking first-base help isn't going to be very large, so if the Mets want to get something back for the impending free agent, their crosstown rivals might be their best trade partner.

Video: PHI@NYM: Duda hits solo shot into the apple in center

Yonder Alonso
Like Duda, Alonso is a lefty slugger headed for free agency at the end of the season. Unlike Duda, the Oakland first baseman is headed for the All-Star Game after an impressive first half (19 home runs, .943 OPS). The Athletics are a clear seller, and if they don't plan to give Alonso an extension, there's no reason for him not to be moved in the next three-plus weeks. He'd be a perfect short-term fit for the Yankees.

Video: CWS@OAK: Alonso drills two homers vs. White Sox

Matt Adams
Adams was viewed as little more than a fill-in for Freddie Freeman when the Braves acquired him in late May, but the 28-year-old has a robust .908 OPS since joining Atlanta. He's inexpensive ($2.8 million in 2017, part of which is being picked up by the Cardinals) and under control for next season, but the Braves got him on the cheap, giving GM John Coppolella a chance to flip him for a better prospect than the one he gave up. An Adams deal would also allow the Braves to return Freeman to his natural position at first base.

Video: SF@ATL: Matt Adams crushes a solo home run to right

Brandon Belt
The Giants' season has been a complete disaster, and although they don't have many expiring contracts to unload, they could decide to make some bigger changes by moving a foundation player or two. Belt is signed through 2021 and will earn $16 million in each of the next four seasons, and while it's much more than Bird will make during that time, it might look like a bargain next to what Eric Hosmer gets as a free agent this winter. Whether the Yankees would give up on Bird long term -- or be willing to part with the prospects it would take to land Belt -- are the bigger questions. 

Video: SF@PIT: Belt clubs a two-run shot to right field

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

New York Yankees