On April 27th, the Yankees put an end to Mike Tauchman’s two-plus-season tenure in New York by swapping him for Giants left-handed reliever, Wandy Peralta. At the bottom of the Yankees’ totem pole of outfielders, Tauchman seemed unlikely to be called upon often assuming any modicum of success from the handful of players above him on the depth chart.
Unfortunately, the Yankees’ outfielders have combined for a total of 1.7 fWAR on the season, the eighth-worst mark amongst outfield groups in the majors. That total looks even worse when considering the fact that it drops to -0.2 fWAR when subtracting Aaron Judge’s nearly two wins all on his own. Further, Aaron Hicks’ season-ending injury — that occurred right as he started to heat up — thinned an already struggling group.
Looking for alternatives to the dismal play of all Yankee outfielders shorter than 6’6”, many fans have expressed contrition over the Tauchman trade, wishing Cashman had just stayed put instead of shipping him off to San Francisco. Making the trade’s optics even worse, Tauchman’s played in almost every game with the Giants, while Wandy Peralta has run up a middling 4.63 ERA since coming to the Bronx. While the swap was anything but a blockbuster, the Yankees’ luxury tax adherence has constricted them to improving around the margins, and there are certainly those who believe the Yankees are worse off after making the move:
Frazier is not better then tauchman, Yankees traded the wrong guy— BK (@BK_3737) June 7, 2021
Not that Tauchman is playing out of his mind in SF or something but sheesh he really would’ve been the Yankees everyday CF prolly the whole season— SG Pfully Pfizered (@TheKid_Sam) June 8, 2021
How’s that Tauchman trade look now mr cashman?— Chris ENRAGED Yankee Fan!! (@ChrisYankeeFan) June 7, 2021
This belief relies on the assumption that Tauchman is better than Peralta, and, more specifically, that Tauchman would bring a greater utility to this Yankee team than Peralta.
While Tauchman’s alternatives have been pretty poor, it’s not especially clear that he’s been that much better than them have since he joined the Giants. Aside from his game-saving catch against the Dodgers — robbing the decrepit Albert Pujols of a walk-off homer — Tauchman’s play has been usually unspectacular.
In 127 plate appearances across 35 games with the Giants, Tauchman has generated 0.2 fWAR while triple-slashing .187/.315/.299 — even after his homer on Tuesday. Those numbers might surpass the stumbling Brett Gardner, but taken on their own would easily draw the ire of many Yankees fans.
His elite walk rate has provided a lifeline for offensive production that has been otherwise DOA. Even though his aberrant 2019 campaign in New York (during which he slugged a career-high .504 with a .227 ISO) accounted for almost half of his career plate appearances, he has a career slugging percentage of .389, and has yet to crack a .125 ISO in any other season. At this point, it seems relatively clear that Tauchman’s not a good hitter, even if he was for a half-season’s worth of games in 2019.
Peralta, however, despite his overall 4.95 ERA and 4.70 FIP on the season, has shown to be a much more promising pitcher than his counting stats might imply.
Percentile rankings as of the end of the day on June 7, 2021
Among his most impressive broad strokes Statcast metrics are his whiff and chase rates, each of which rank within the top sixth of qualified major league pitchers. His decent slider plays up against his divergently-breaking, filthy changeup. Only his fastball has ever been hit particularly hard, but by throwing his changeup significantly more than any other pitch, as much as a career-high 37.0 percent of the time this season, he can mostly steer clear of his fairly flat heater (44th percentile spin).
With injuries to Zack Britton, Darren O’Day, and Justin Wilson, the Yankees have made use of Peralta for 11.2 innings so far, despite some of his bad batted ball luck. Given his good-to-great arsenal, Peralta’s inflated ERA should start to creep down towards his 2021 xERA of 3.59. Come playoff time, he could be a viable option at the back end of an already strong bullpen.
Although the outfield hasn’t been particularly good, that doesn’t mean the acquisition of Peralta wasn’t worth Tauchman’s expenditure. Peralta’s helped bolster the pen, and while Tauchman might be an improvement over the Giants’ backups, the Yankees are better off betting on the upside of what they’ve got than the steadily underwhelming Tauchman. Even now, chances are that somewhere within the combo of Clint Frazier and Gardner, with a smattering of Miguel Andújar et al, the Yankees will find more production than 2021 Mike Tauchman can provide.