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Inbox: Who's on first for Yankees in 2019?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers fans' questions
February 7, 2019

Who do you think will win the first-base job? -- Mike S., Ellettsville, Ind.Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said that Luke Voit "has a leg up" on the job by virtue of his terrific second-half performance. Having watched Voit put on a batting-practice display at the Minor League complex

Who do you think will win the first-base job?
-- Mike S., Ellettsville, Ind.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said that Luke Voit "has a leg up" on the job by virtue of his terrific second-half performance. Having watched Voit put on a batting-practice display at the Minor League complex this week, barreling about a dozen balls well beyond the left-field wall, it is safe to say that he did not lose any of his prodigious power over the winter.
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If you've seen the videos that Voit posted of his workouts, including the one where he repeatedly batters a truck tire with a sledgehammer, you can probably imagine how those baseballs were flying.

As the challenger, Greg Bird will be trying to make the talent evaluators roll the clock back to 2015. Don't count him out yet. It was only a few years ago that Bird was heralded as the best pure hitter in the organization, and some influential voices in the organization remain bullish on Bird's future.
"In the organization's mind and in my mind, I understand what he's still capable of being," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Opportunity will knock for him at some point; it's inevitable. It will be incumbent on him to take advantage of the opportunities when they're made available to him. We still feel that he has a chance to be an impact player for us."
It is possible that the Yanks could entertain a platoon at first base, but with about two weeks before the first exhibition game of the spring, Voit appears to be the odds-on favorite.

How far is Estevan Florial from The Bronx?
-- Ron P., Reston, Va.

An electric outfield prospect with raw power, speed and arm strength, the 21-year-old Florial has been rated as the Yankees' No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline. Florial lost development time last year when he needed right hand surgery in May, a procedure that kept him out until July, but he is expected to be back at full strength this year. It has been suggested that Florial could see big league time as soon as 2020.
"Our developmental people were feeling that he was starting to unlock certain keys that were going to take him to another level, and then the injury hit and took him offline completely," Cashman said recently. "We're excited to see what he's going to do as he takes those steps. His makeup is just fantastic. He's really smart and physically gifted. We have high hopes for him, but he's young and he's raw. He's got time to put in still."

Are the Yankees completely out on signing Bryce Harper and Manny Machado?
-- Steven R., Springfield, N.J.

I would say they remain on the periphery, monitoring the situation for both. It is bizarre that pitchers and catchers are about to report to camps and two of the game's top players remain unsigned, with little apparent movement. To paraphrase what CC Sabathia said on his R2C2 podcast, the longer this drags on, it could be good news for the Yankees.
We know the club had substantial interest in Machado, enough to bring him to Yankee Stadium and treat him to dinner on the Upper East Side, and Harper's elite left-handed bat represents a clear upgrade despite Cashman's comments about there being no room in the crowded outfield. The financials would be staggering, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.

Here is what Boone said this past week: "You never say never with anything. But I would also say we feel we have a great team right now. ... Obviously things happen that might force Brian and his staff to pivot on certain things. But I think it's safe to assume we're going to Spring Training with the team we have."
With the potential of injuries or health issues, would it be wise for the Yankees to get a sixth starting pitcher?
-- John A., Casselberry, Fla.

There's a standard saying that you never have enough pitching, and this is something the Yankees are said to be exploring. On paper, they have Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and Sabathia, but there are question marks with several of those names, and this is the time of year when prices can drop for players still on the outside looking in.
Gio Gonzalez and Ervin Santana were recently mentioned by MLB Network insider Jon Heyman as possibilities for the Yanks. Both have had success in the Majors, but would be looked at more as innings-eaters who could bump the likes of Luis Cessa, Domingo Germán and Jonathan Loaisiga from the big-league roster. Stay tuned.
Will the Yankees consider re-signing Troy Tulowitzki if he plays well this year?
-- Logan J., Bethesda, Md.

It's too soon to make predictions about Tulowitzki's 2020 season, since we are still trying to figure out what his '19 will look like. Clearly, he is motivated to prove he can still be an everyday big league shortstop, and the Yankees plan on giving him that opportunity, but he hasn't played in a big league game since July '17.

Tulowitzki doesn't need to reclaim his vintage Rockies-era performance level. If he can stay on the field and be a regular contributor until Didi Gregorius returns, the Yankees would be thrilled. It's probably best to plan on Tulowitzki being a short-term fill-in, at least for now.
What is Jacoby Ellsbury's status and how does he fit in with the Yankees this coming season?
-- Eddie R., Emporia, Va.

Ellsbury is expected to be healthy following his left hip surgery, but it's unclear how he would crack the outfield mix of Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and perhaps Clint Frazier. At best, Ellsbury projects as a reserve, though his left-handed bat would provide some balance to a roster that has grown increasingly righty-heavy.
On paper, there does not appear to be much playing time, but at-bats have a strange way of appearing. A year ago, you probably wouldn't have guessed that Billy McKinney, Jace Peterson and Shane Robinson would all garner big league plate appearances for the Yankees. They did, with the Ellsbury and Frazier absences ultimately prompting the Andrew McCutchen trade.
Cashman recently said there have been trade proposals for Ellsbury, but he characterized them as "money laundering" -- one expensive contract for another. The recent rumors of a Johnny Cueto trade with the Giants would fit into that category. Ellsbury has a no-trade clause, but to date, the Yankees have not approached him about waiving it.

What is the status of Jordan Montgomery? Do the Yankees have any plans of putting him back in the rotation this year?
-- Dave S., Harrisburg, Pa.

Montgomery is recovering from Tommy John surgery performed in June. The Yankees have said they anticipate that he will be big league ready sometime in the second half of the season. It would not be a surprise to see Montgomery make starts for the team in August or September.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.