NEW YORK — As general manager, Brian Cashman is constantly striving to improve the Yankees' roster. That's often accomplished via trades, shipping off certain players to fill needs and weaknesses in other spots.
No matter how many teams have demonstrated interest, however, Cashman knows that it's best to hold onto certain assets when other clubs aren't offering a sufficient package in return.
Cashman revealed on Monday that New York has received plenty of interest for outfielder Mike Tauchman. Not just this spring, when Tauchman's role in pinstripes has been up in the air, but over the last several years.
"I did get a lot of phone calls on Tauchman," Cashman said. "But that's routine. I've had a lot of calls on Tauchman every trade deadline and every winter it seems like since we got him. Clearly he's here because whatever bell that needs to be rung has never been rung."
With first baseman Luke Voit suddenly needing to miss time due to a partial meniscus tear in his left knee, a door was opened for both Tauchman and veteran Jay Bruce to make the opening day roster.
Tauchman is out of minor-league options, so choosing Bruce for the final spot on the bench for the regular season would have forced New York to either trade or release the outfielder.
Even if Voit never got hurt, Cashman explained that Tauchman was here to stay.
"Mike provides a lot of value," he said. "He's an elite defender in left, center and right. He puts together a quality at-bat. He's got some pop from the left side. I think he provides value. So, unless somebody created an opportunity that made sense for us to consider, there was no place for him to go."
Acquired in the spring of 2019, Tauchman had a breakout year during his first season with the Yankees. For a few months, later that summer, the outfielder was legitimately one of the best hitters in baseball.
In the coronavirus-shortened campaign the following year, Tauchman didn't have nearly as much success. By the end of the season, factoring in an aggravated left shoulder, Tauchman's role on offense had basically disappeared.
"I thought he had a rough 2020 and that was for a lot of reasons," Cashman said. "It was a shortened season. So it's hard to judge anything on a small sample size, and his sample size was even smaller, because obviously he wasn't starting every day. Had a little shoulder injury that I think effected him."
As camp progressed this spring, all signs pointed toward Cashman and the Yankees choosing between Bruce and Tauchman for the final spot on the bench. From very early on, Cashman recognized that Bruce was making a "strong" case to make the 26-man roster.
Sure, Voit's injury ended up making the choice an easy one, but the Yankees aren't out of the woods with tough decisions just yet.
New York's slugging first baseman isn't expected to be out for too long, working back from a brief three-week stint away from baseball activity as he heals from Monday's surgery. That means the Yankees will need to choose, for real this time, between Bruce (who is filling in at first base in the meantime) and Tauchman a few months into the regular season.
Asked what he'll do if Bruce plays well to start the year, making that call even tougher, Cashman smiled.
"I want him to light it up," he said. "Then we'll have more decisions to make. It's better to have those decisions ... [Otherwise] you're scrambling, you'll take anything if you can put a uniform on it and that's not a good spot to be in.
Until then, New York's opening day roster is just about finalized. The Yankees have a workout on Wednesday morning, acclimating themselves with Yankee Stadium once again, before kicking off the regular season on Thursday.
As much as Cashman and all parties involved will be put in tough spots this year, from a personnel perspective, it's a good problem to have.
"We have a 26-man roster right now and I think we have more than 26 qualified people that could represent the New York Yankees on a daily basis," Cashman said. "That's a better place to be than the alternative."
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