Good morning. We’re just a week out from opening day, and I don’t know about you, but I’m dealing with some major spring training fatigue at this point. The games are a bit of a slog now and my lone concern is player health. Wake me up in a week, please.
In case you missed it, Bobby penned his thoughts yesterday. His last section, about the players he’s most excited to watch this year, definitely helped me snap out of my March malaise a bit. Just need to have some patience over this last week. Anyway, let’s move forward and break down the latest and greatest in the Yankees’ world:
The big story: Should they stay or should they go?
Perhaps my spring training fatigue stems from the amount of time spent on the Yankees’ final bench spot. In the past week or so, other players on the roster bubble have solidified their chances to make the team due to various factors, including injuries above them on the depth chart (Lucas Luetge) and performance (Luetge again, Domingo Germán). But the final bench role competition has dragged on without any obvious determination. We’ve sure spent a lot of time debating the merits of Mike Tauchman, Jay Bruce, and Derek Dietrich, and we finally should get a reprieve imminently.
Some players can initiate their opt-outs as soon as today, including Bruce. That doesn’t mean the Yankees have to decide on him (or others) this very second. Rather, once said player triggers his opt-out, the team will have a window to either cut them loose or add them to the roster. It sounds like the coaching staff and front office could take this decision to the eleventh hour:
“The reality is we — and a few of our players — have decisions to make in the next 24, 48, 72 hours,’’ Boone said following Wednesday’s 5-0 loss to the Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field. “But no decision has been made as of right now.”
It’s wise to wait as long as possible to make the call regardless of the difficulty of the decision, just in case an injury pops up. Still, there’s no clear tell of which way the Yankees are leaning. When camp opened, I felt that Dietrich was going to grab that last bench spot. Then Bruce got hot and looked like the favorite. Now my gut says that the incumbent, Tauchman, will be able to hold them off. But I wouldn’t be surprised whichever direction the team goes.
Taking his word for it, it sounds like Tauchman has been able to tune out of the debate and focus on himself:
“I’ve personally been happy with how I’ve played the outfield, and I’ve been happy with how my body has felt,” Tauchman said. “I think that I’m in a position to play at a high level in the Major Leagues this year, and to me, that’s much more of a priority than worrying about what people way above my pay grade are going to do. I’m focused on playing baseball. I’m focused on today.”
It can’t be easy to block out all the noise, especially when in a trying to hold off challengers and now coming up in trade rumors:
Yankees are receiving interest in Mike Tauchman but value him highly. They believe he’s healthy and 2020 was not representative. Would take a controllable reliever or some such — they’re not just going to give him away.— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) March 25, 2021
It’s not necessarily a surprise to hear Tauchman asked about. Teams asked about his availability over the winter, after all. And it makes sense that the Yankees want another reliever given the injuries to Zack Britton and Justin Wilson.
Anyhow, we should have some clarity on this roster competition in the coming days. The ball will start rolling in earnest today, but don’t expect any announcement just yet. Be patient, we’re almost there folks.
- It sounds like Justin Wilson‘s MRI results yielded the best possible news. He’s going to receive treatment, including oral anti-inflammatories, over the next few days before throwing again. I don’t expect him to be ready for the opener, but at least it doesn’t sound like he’ll miss too many games to start the season. (Yankees PR)
- Aaron Boone received the J&J COVID-19 vaccine about a week ago. He and Phil Nevin got it together. (Bryan Hoch, Lindsey Adler)
- Trevor Stephan, the former Yankees prospect taken by Cleveland in the Rule 5 Draft, has made the team’s opening day roster. (Joe Noga)
- MLB is attempting to crack down on pitchers using foreign substances this year. There will be compliance officers monitoring various locations at ballparks, balls taken out of play can be inspected and analyzed by a third-party lab, and Statcast spin rates will be analyzed. (Jeff Passan)
- The Yankees will permit scouts at minor league spring training and the Alternate Site. They weren’t part of the information share at the Alternate Site last summer. (Eric Longenhagen)
- The Bombers take on the Phillies in Clearwater this evening. You can catch it on MLB.tv or WFAN. Mike King will start this one.