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With opt-out looming, signs point to Bruce for Yankees bench

The Jay Bruce question will be answered one way or another Thursday. That’s the deadline that was set when he signed a minor league deal with a major league spring training invite with the Yankees in February.

The clause in his contact is simple – add Bruce to the 40-man roster (and in turn, the opening day roster) by the deadline or he can walk. An option to the minors to start the season isn’t a possibility as the major league market will be there for the big veteran bat.

Brought to camp as insurance, Bruce has forced the Yankees hand with a pair of homers and an OPS of .786 in 11 games. Most importantly though, he’s demonstrated that he’s healthy – combine that with his ability to play both corner outfield spots as well as first somewhat competently and the decision becomes rather simple. And did we mention he’s a lefty?

The four spots that Bruce can back up are currently occupied by righty bats: Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit. The reality of Judge and Stanton is that both guys will need days of rest and Bruce gives you a reliable option with a similar power threat on any given day (and a reliable longer-term bat when inevitable IL stints come). And in a stretch where Voit has played multiple days in-a-row and the Yankees are facing a tough righty arm, it’s another sensical spot to plug in Bruce.

In any scenario, you can live with whatever defensive liability Bruce brings on a day-to-day basis.

The Bruce – Mike Tauchman debate comes down to power. Both lefty bats, Tauchman’s only real edge is his ability to play all three outfield positions well. But so does Brett Gardner (also obviously a lefty) which, despite the real value that Tauchman does bring, makes him an expendable piece and one that likely wouldn’t clear waivers and allow the Yankees to stash him in Scranton to start the year.

These types of roster crunches have seemed to work themselves out over the last several seasons with the maddening string of injuries the Yankees have experienced. So despite the fair disappointment that a Tauchman departure brings, it’s a welcomed deviation from the injury-norm to have more quality players than the roster allows.

Tauchman’s only potential shot (outside of a significant injury) of being in the Bronx on April 1 seems to be a Tyler Wade demotion – but given Wade represents the Yankees only real backup infield depth, it’s an unlikely scenario. Plus, a Wade demotion likely means the final bench spot would be for Derek Dietrich regardless.

Any way you slice it, if appears Tauchman’s Yankee tenure will be over soon.