The Giants traded for a lefty-hitting outfielder two days after lefty-hitting outfielder Mike Yastrzemski hurt his oblique.
And yet, they say this is not a move born out of reflex.
“This is a long-term, high-quality add to our major league roster and unrelated to injury,” Gabe Kapler said of Mike Tauchman on Tuesday.
The club has had interest in the now former Yankees outfielder “my entire time with the Giants,” Farhan Zaidi said.
They are receiving a different kind of project: a major league outfielder with good defensive skills and a bat that announced itself in 2019 but has struggled since. Their other offseason/early-season additions with lefty-hitting capabilities who could see time at center field — LaMonte Wade Jr. (on the IL with a left oblique strain) and Skye Bolt (called up Tuesday, but likely briefly) — do not have the resume Tauchman brings.
He had a standout 2019 season, in which he slashed .277/.361/.504 with 13 home runs and six steals in 87 games.
“His 2019 second half, he was really one of the better players in baseball,” Zaidi said of the now 30-year-old.
The problems came after, when he struggled through the shortened 2020 season with playing time that Zaidi called “sporadic.” He made the Yankees out of spring training this season but did not see the field much, going 3-for-14 before the trade.
The Yankees needed a lefty reliever, which the Giants had a glut of, and Wandy Peralta was the fit. Peralta has one more option, so New York can be flexible with him, while the Giants need to bring Tauchman up to the major league club and cannot send him down.
He projects as the center-field complement the Giants have sought since the end of last season. Mauricio Dubon’s career OPS is significantly worse against righties (.668), which has led to Austin Slater getting plenty of starts in center against righties (but he, too, has struggled, with a .572 OPS against them this year). For the short term against righties, Tauchman can handle center and give the Giants a decision of whether they want Slater’s defense in right or Darin Ruf’s bat.
For the longer term, Tauchman could play in between Yastrzemski and Dickerson against righties, while Ruf, Slater and Dubon would see more time against lefties.
Slightly complicating this is that Tauchman, an Illinois native, has had reverse splits through his career, hitting lefties better than righties. Zaidi sees this as a feature rather than a bug: He can work counts against anybody.
“It’s a luxury to have a left-handed hitter who we think can hang in there against a lefty, save a move,” the Giants’ president of baseball operations said before play against the Rockies. “Especially a guy who’s a good defender, who late in games you may not want to be matching up against and lose their glove.”
There are a few immediate domino effects. With the extra 26-man roster spot before Tauchman arrives (likely Wednesday), the Giants called up Bolt from their alternate site, a switch-hitting bat off the bench while Yastrzemski heals.
Without Peralta, who was mostly a trusted option, there will be more late-game opportunities and questions for a lefty-heavy bullpen.
“I think [Jose] Alvarez and [Caleb] Baragar are both capable of taking on important innings for us,” Kapler said. “Alvarez has a track record of being able to do that; Baragar had a really nice year for us last year. We want to give him that opportunity. And … we have some left-handed options on our 40-man as well.”
The Giants enter play 15-8 with an offense that has yet to come around and a roster that has had a few obvious holes. The Giants hope they just plugged one of those.