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Yankees gain outfield insurance in Mike Tauchman trade

Pressed by moderate concern over Aaron Hicks’ back, the Yankees moved for another backup

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Angels at Colorado Rockies Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees’ depth in the outfield is getting stressed early on this season, and Brian Cashman apparently didn’t want to let that become an issue. Aaron Hicks is going to miss Opening Day, and the Bombers are playing things cautiously with the chronic pain in his back. So, in the meantime, they swung a deal to pick up Mike Tauchman from the Colorado Rockies.

Tauchman is a 28-year-old farmhand, only having played a combined 52 major league games over the past two seasons. He wasn’t effective at all in those short stints, hitting for a .153/.263/.203 slash line, but crushed in the minors to stay relevant enough to keep around. He profiles very similarly to a depth trade the Yankees made back in 2017, acquiring Garrett Cooper from the Brewers to help cover the hole at first base that the team had. Cooper hadn’t made his major league debut at that time, but was an aging farmhand with plenty of success offensively at the AAA level.

Tauchman is likely an acquisition of a similar style to Cooper. The Yankees have options to go to in the outfield before him, but if things get dire or anyone struggles long enough, he could see a couple games. Hicks will hopefully be back in a few weeks, but back injuries are difficult to plan around, and not being able to start baseball activities yet is worrisome.

An injury like that could lead to extended time down, and disrupting Clint Frazier’s regular playing time to appear in a game a week on the big-league team probably isn’t preferable, so getting another option couldn’t hurt. Tauchman also has experience playing all three outfield positions, so it adds a layer of flexibility to their choices.

That said, the Yankees had to give up something to get Tauchman, and they wound up trading reliever Phillip Diehl. One of the many pitching prospects that the Yankees have developed down on the farm, Diehl spent his 2018 season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. He saw a lot of success with the Thunder, pitching to a 1.35 ERA over 26.2 innings, but was still far away from breaking into the majors. Considering the strength the Yankees already have in their bullpen, and the host of pitching prospects ahead of Diehl in the system, the cost was minimal.

Ultimately, trading for Tauchman means that the Yankees have one more body in the mix for outfield duty. The larger message from this deal is the concern level over Hicks, which is now noticeable. The Yankees have a sizable buffer zone in their early schedule to accommodate Hicks’ recovery, but its impact on him going forward and his ability to play without pain will be something to monitor.