Four Players, Two Spots: The decision Brian Cashman needs to make regarding Tyler Wade, Jay Bruce, Mike Tauchman, and Derek Dietrich. Photo: YES
When you look at the Yankees on paper, you see a pretty solidified core of guys and a powerful lineup that should make opposing pitchers nervous. One through nine, the Yankees have sheer talent with the likes of DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton. Unfortunately with the Yanks, they have had a hard time staying healthy, which is why the final roster decisions are so vital for the team's success.
As decisions are looming for who will make the final 26 man cut, it is safe to say both backup catcher Kyle Higashioka and outfielder Brett Gardner will be on the Opening Day roster. These are locks, per Yankee Insider, Bryan Hoch. Mike Ford, the incumbent backup first baseman and lefty bat has been optioned, along with Thairo Estrada and Estevan Florial. That leaves four guys, two non-roster invitees veterans in Jay Bruce and Derek Dietrich, and current Yankees Tyler Wade and Mike Tacuhman. With the current roster in form, who earns the final two spots?
I think the Yankees are still holding onto Tauchman's breakout campaign back in 2019. They flipped lefty Phillip Diehl to the Rockies in exchange for him right before that season started. He was electric in his 300 plate appearances, slashing .277/.361/.504 with 13 home runs. His bat has been lively this spring training, which is nice to see him returning to form. Tauchman plays all three outfield positions very well, including center field. The downside is that he doesn't have any options left, so if he isn't on the team or the Yanks can't trade him, then he is no longer a Yankee. They also have him under team control through the 2024 season. The Sock-Man can be an everyday outfielder for the majority of major league clubs, so it is nice to have him as an insurance piece of Hicks or Judge sustain injuries. Yankees are receiving interest in Mike Tauchman but value him highly. They believe he’s healthy and 2020 was not representative.
Tyler Wade is a fan favorite, I mean how can you hate that smile? But he is also one of the most frustrating players on the team because the Yank's brass loves him, but he doesn't produce as well as it may be perceived. Defensively, he can fill the holes in the middle and he has a fine glove, but his bat is abysmal. Wade’s speed and ability to play both infield and outfield making him a useful bench player. His offense isn't spectacular. In 346 career big-league plate appearances, Wade has hit .190/.274/.301 with six home runs and 13 stolen bases. What makes things easier for the Yanks, compared to Tauchman, is that Wade has one option left.
Dietrich's spring training wasn't marvelous, he had plenty of offensive struggles. Aaron Boone though doesn't think this necessarily disqualifies him from making the team. "It's more about what are they looking like, whether there's a result or not," Boone said. "In Deet's case, he very much looks like the hitter he's been throughout most of his career. I feel like physically he's been in a really good spot. We've gotten him in a lot of positions. I would say it's more about physically where [he is] and track record." Dietrich can pimp the ball like Judge and Stanton, but can also provide much-needed depth around the entire diamond. He is built for Yankee stadium. He has a 42.7% pull percentage with a 39.7% flyball percentage, which is higher than the MLB average. Hello Short Porch. DD just has that swagger, that it factor. I think he has the longest shot to make the team, but the yoked versatile ballplayer will be in the competition until the very end.
Defensive versatility, veteran presence, and lefty power bat. Not to mention 318 career home runs. These are the things that the 14-year vet brings to the table. The former all-star and silver slugger was a surprise name to see linked to the Yanks. Even though on a minor league deal, he has turned some heads and even received praise from the team. He can play the corners, and first base, and offer valuable mentoring to the young guys plus a nice lefty bat. The decision on Bruce might be easier than expected because Bruce has until midnight to let the Yankees know if he will opt out of his minor league contract. They had 48 hours to either put him on the 40-man roster or release him.
Who I'd Choose: Jay Bruce and Derek Dietrich
What's going to happen: Tyler Wade and Mike Tauchman
Everybody has a realistic chance, but Tauchman and Wade are emerging as the favorites. Sticking with the two would probably be the simple solution for Cashman and Company. They already have established roles with the team, and the Yanks know what they are working with. I don't think it is wise to have six outfielders who can only play outfield. Both Jay Bruce and Derek Dietrich bring more versatility, which the Yankees could utilize for resting purposes or injuries.
When the Yankees brought back Brett Gardner, who can cover different outfield spots as needed, it made Tauchman movable. With the loss of Britton and possibly Wilson, Tauchman could be a nice trade piece for a high-quality bullpen arm. Tyler Wade still has club options available. Sending him down to the Alternate Site and Triple-A could help him improve his craft. Keeping Dietrich, who has ample experience at both second base and third base, and some outfield and shortstop work would be a cleaner fit for the team. The reason that the team is so keen on Wade is for his speed and his ability to play the middle infield. Now that Boone knows Gio Urshela could slide into short in a pinch, maybe Wade isn't as valuable as we think?
This will be a tough decision for the team, as all four of these guys could make a serious impact in the Bronx or for another team. Only time will tell, one week until Opening Day.