Yanks deal Voit to Padres for righty prospect Lange

Slugger looks forward to 'fresh start with a new team' in San Diego

March 18th, 2022

BRADENTON, Fla. -- As Luke Voit drove from the Tampa area down to Bradenton on Friday morning, a number of thoughts rumbled through his head.

The slugger knew his days with the Yankees were numbered thanks to the return of his friend Anthony Rizzo, but with his current team slated to play its spring opener against the Pirates, he was looking forward to suiting up in New York’s road blue and getting on a field again after struggling through an injury-riddled 2021 season.

He didn’t get that chance, as the Yankees traded him to the Padres about an hour before first pitch, receiving 20-year-old pitching prospect Justin Lange in return.

“I knew there was a possibility that could happen today,” said Voit, who had been kept in the loop through conversations with his agent. “Honestly, I was kind of getting chills just coming back because I was going to get to play baseball again. I'm feeling good, and this freaking field is like a fairway right now, so I was excited to get on a nice field again.”

Voit was taking swings in the batting cage when manager Aaron Boone interrupted him, calling him into the clubhouse to deliver the news with general manager Brian Cashman, who was on the phone back in Tampa.

“I truly believe this is a good thing for him and a good opportunity for him,” Boone said after the Yankees’ 4-3 loss to the Pirates on Friday afternoon. “I think he's in a good place; I think he's healthy and knows he can go out and be productive. It was just kind of a human interaction between a guy that's been through the wars with you, been through the battles with you and been through ups and downs with you. That chapter is coming to a close, and you try and honor that moment.”

Voit’s Yankees tenure spanned parts of four seasons, having been traded to New York by the Cardinals in the days leading up to the 2018 Trade Deadline. He slashed .271/.363/.520 with 68 home runs in 281 games for the Yankees, but that last number was the one that prevented Voit from gaining a stranglehold on first base.

Voit missed 37 games in 2019 with an abdominal strain and a sports hernia, though he bounced back with a huge 2020 season, leading the Majors with 22 home runs during the pandemic-shortened campaign.

Last season, Voit played in only 68 games, hitting the injured list on three separate occasions. It was during the third of those stints that the Yankees traded for Rizzo, who became one of Voit’s closest friends on the team. Ironically, it was Rizzo’s return this week that ultimately spelled the end for Voit in New York.

“It's partially my fault; last year, I only played [68] games,” Voit said. “They want to win and I can’t help them win if I'm not playing, so I get that.

“I didn't know what my role honestly was going to be here. … I'm just ready to show everybody that I can hit again, that I can hit and I feel good; just to play the game that every little kid plays, go out there and have fun.”

He’ll get that chance in San Diego, where he’ll be reunited with former Missouri State University teammate Pierce Johnson, who appeared in 63 games out of the bullpen for the Padres last season.

“I can't wait; it’s 75 every day and I don’t have to do New York in April, now,” Voit said with a smile. “I'm really happy. It's a good thing for my career; kind of [a] fresh start with a new team.”

Barring a trade of Eric Hosmer, Voit figures to see most of his at-bats in the designated hitter spot, which was added to the National League in the new collective bargaining agreement. He could also get some starts at first base against left-handers.

“It helped my career out a lot,” Voit said of the universal DH. “That was big.”

Lange, a 20-year-old right-hander rated as the Padres’ No. 8 prospect by MLB Pipeline, was the 34th pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. He didn’t pitch in 2020 as the Minors were shut down by the pandemic, but he started nine games for the Padres’ Rookie-level Arizona Complex League in 2021, posting a 6.95 ERA in 22 innings.

“He’s a talent, he’s got a good arm, he’s a good athlete; all those reasons are why we liked him in the Draft,” Padres general manager A.J. Preller said. “Ultimately, it’s a prospect that’s a little bit away. It’s going to take him some time. But we expect him to go out and do well for the Yankees. You always have to give up something that’s good to get somebody that’s good.”

As he spoke with reporters before departing LECOM Park, Voit thanked the Yankees for bringing him over in 2018 and giving him an opportunity to play, something he never got in St. Louis.

“I was kind of stuck in St. Louis, so I appreciate everything they did,” Voit said. “I wish every person would get a chance to play for the New York Yankees.”

Asked for his personal pinstriped highlight, the first baseman rattled off a number of personal memories.

“I hit a triple in the playoff game, which is probably my only triple I have,” said Voit, who actually had two regular-season triples with the Yankees. “I remember my first at-bat on Opening Day in 2019, hitting a home run. Just the grinding in the playoffs over the last couple years, being so close but just getting gut-punched. It just makes you want to work harder in the offseason to get prepared for that. It’s nice that I'm getting traded to a team that's ready to contend for that, as well.”