Luke Voit fields ground balls during Yankees spring training at George...

Luke Voit fields ground balls during Yankees spring training at George E Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on March 17, 2022 Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

BRADENTON, Fla. — The inevitable became reality Friday morning when the Yankees finally traded first baseman Luke Voit, whom they had been trying to deal since before the trade deadline last July after acquiring Anthony Rizzo.

When the Yankees re-signed Rizzo earlier this week, Voit’s days in pinstripes were numbered.

His number officially came up Friday when the Yankees sent him to the Padres in exchange for 20-year-old righty pitching prospect Justin Lange, who was chosen 34th overall in the first round in 2020 by San Diego.

"I know they [the Padres] have a really good team right now and they're ready to win," Voit said in the parking lot here after changing out of a Yankees uniform for the final time.

Don’t take that to mean he wasn’t crushed at no longer being a Yankee. No player in recent memory seemed to enjoy being a Yankee more than Voit, who was brought over in a deadline deal with the Cardinals in 2018 (Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos went to St. Louis).

"An awesome experience," Voit said. "I wish every person had a chance to play for the New York Yankees."

After leading Major League Baseball with 22 homers in the COVID-shortened 60-game season of 2020, Voit went through a rough 2021 that helped set the wheels in motion for what happened Friday.

His 2021 season started badly as he dealt with knee soreness almost from the time he reported for spring training. He had surgery March 29 to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee and did not make his season debut until May 11.

Voit never was completely healthy in 2021. He had three stints on the injured list and ended up hitting .239 with 11 homers and a .764 OPS in 68 games.

Though he worked hard at improving defensively, the powerfully built Voit (6-3, 255) rarely was better than average on his best days. His limitations on defense combined with a sluggish year at the plate and overall inability to stay on the field made acquiring a first baseman a trade deadline priority, a process that ultimately netted Rizzo.

Rizzo wasn’t the club’s No. 1 choice this offseason to fill in the void at first. Matt Olson, who eventually was traded to Atlanta by Oakland, was the priority, with Rizzo as the fallback. Despite some of the noise to the contrary, Freddie Freeman, who wound up signing a six-year, $162 million contract with the Dodgers, was never internally seen as a realistic option by the Yankees because of his asking price, both in money and years.

In four seasons with the Yankees, Voit had a .271/.363/.520 slash line with 68 home runs and 182 RBIs in 281 games.

Regardless, it was a near certainty that the Yankees' starting first baseman in 2022 was not going to be Voit, who said there was a level of disappointment that things didn’t work out longer term with the club.

"You know, it's partially my fault," said Voit, 31, who said he had good conversations with Aaron Boone, who was in Bradenton, and over the phone with general manager Brian Cashman. "Last year, I only played [68] games. They want to win and I can’t help them win if I'm not playing. I get that. But I think I just needed a fresh start. I kind of feel like Gary’s [Sanchez] like that too a little bit and Gio [Urshela], so I’m excited."

The Yankees had been "aggressive" in shopping Voit since Rizzo re-signed, according to one rival executive, and the same goes for Miguel Andujar.

With the designated hitter becoming a part of the National League this season, a bevy of teams are in need of a bat. Andujar, a third baseman whom the Yankees plan to play some at third and in leftfield this spring if they aren’t able to trade him, is seen as a man without a position despite his athleticism. The Yankees very much remain in the market for a starting pitcher, though if they are to get one of quality, they would have to include more than Andujar.

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