Yankees: Former Colorado Rockies talents dominating for NYY is wild
By Scott Roche
Three former Colorado Rockies are playing big roles for the Yankees.
Following the 2018 season, the Colorado Rockies had decisions to make with regard to impending free agents D.J. LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino. When the Rockies decided to move on, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman swooped in. Little did Cashman know at the time, in January of 2019 when he signed the duo, that there was one more deal that would be made with the Rockies.
During Spring Training, Cashman traded for outfielder Mike Tauchman, who had fallen on the Rockies depth chart. A year and a half later, all three are still playing a major roles in the success of the Yankees.
Last season, LeMahieu assumed the leadoff spot in the Yankees order, and the numbers were off the charts for the former 2016 National League batting champion. The 32-year-old LeMahieu finished fourth in American League MVP voting after batting .327 with 33 doubles, 26 home runs and 102 RBI. He finished second in batting to Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox.
While his bat helped to carry the Yankees to 103 regular-season wins, his defense also played a big role. A three-time Gold Glove winner with the Rockies, he was able to give manager Aaron Boone options at first, second and third base. That versatility, with all the injuries they had last year, was welcomed by Boone.
This season, LeMahieu is picking up where he left off last season at the top of the order. A free agent following the season when his two-year, $24 million contract expires, he has to be Cashman’s top priority to bring back in 2021.
Ottavino signed a three-year, $27 million contract to add depth to an already deep bullpen. Primarily a seventh-inning guy for Boone ahead of Zack Britton and Chapman, Ottavino had a career-low 1.90 ERA in 73 appearances in 2019. Using a devastating slider, Ottavino has enjoyed getting out of the air in Colorado and pitching in the city where he grew up.
This season, with Chapman out at the beginning of the season with COVID-19, Ottavino had been nearly perfect in five appearances. His first hiccup of the season was Friday night at Tampa Bay when two walks, a wild pitch and a sac fly in the bottom of the eighth inning gave the Rays their only run in 1-0 victory. Otherwise, Ottavino’s stuff has emerged from an October hiccup nearly flawlessly.
Tauchman made the Yankees Opening Day roster last season, and the rest is history. When the Yankees outfield took hit after hit with injuries, Tauchman provided much-needed defense and some offense. He batted .277 with 13 home runs and 47 RBI in 87 games, before getting hurt himself.
This season he was on track to earn his second straight Opening Day roster spot before the coronavirus pandemic shutdown baseball on March 12. Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks were going to begin the season in the IL, but all three were healthy to begin the season in late July.
You’re not going to believe this, but the Sockman has still found a way to be unbelievably clutch.
None of the machinations stopped Tauchman from finding his way into the lineup. With Brett Gardner slumping, Tauchman took advantage of the opportunity, and has hit over .300 in 10 games. In a 3-1 win over the Phillies Wednesday night in the second game of a doubleheader, he delivered a two-run single in the top of the seventh to break a 1-1 tie. If Gardner continues to struggle, putting Tauchman in the lineup, anywhere, is an option that Boone has to try against either a righty or lefty.
It’s strange to think that the Rockies had all three guys in their system and let them go. Letting LeMahieu and Ottavino hit the free-agent market and trading Tauchman to the Bronx has been a savior for the Yankees, hopefully for years to come.