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Yankees deal reliever Adam Ottavino to Red Sox in rare trade between rivals

Yahoo Sports Staff
·2-min read

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox pulled off a trade Monday that will ship reliever Adam Ottavino to Boston, according to The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler.

It’s just the second deal the rival AL East clubs have made since August 1997. The other came in 2014, when they swapped Stephen Drew and Kelly Johnson. It’s the 31st deal between the teams since the Red Sox infamously sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000 in 1919.

This trade appears to have sprung from the teams’ different circumstances at the moment. The Red Sox, under Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, spent the past year shedding salary and ridding themselves of much of the core that won the 2018 World Series. The Yankees, meanwhile, have been in full pursuit of their first Fall Classic appearance since 2009.

Ottavino was a prized reliever in the free agent class prior to the 2019 season, and New York signed him for three years and $27 million. Now, apparently, the Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman wanted to get the last year of that deal off their books. He is owed a total of $11 million in 2021, with only $9 million of that counted toward the Competitive Balance Tax number that teams closely monitor.

New York Yankees pitcher Adam Ottavino throws to a Toronto Blue Jays batter during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
New York Yankees pitcher Adam Ottavino throws to a Toronto Blue Jays batter during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Buffalo, New York, on Sept. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

The Yankees are reportedly sending right-handed pitching prospect Frank German and $850,000 to Boston along with Ottavino, making the motives clear on New York’s side: dump salary and clear a roster spot (they needed one more space to fit the re-signed star DJ LeMahieu and newly acquired pitcher Corey Kluber). They also just cleared some space by trading multiple prospects for Pirates starter Jameson Taillon.

The right-handed Ottavino, who specializes in a sweeping slider, was stellar in his first season in New York — ripping off a 1.90 ERA in 66⅓ innings, striking out nearly 12 batters per nine innings. His ERA ballooned to 5.89 in the shortened 2020 season, but his strikeout rate remained steady. By FIP — or Fielding Independent Pitching, a metric that estimates ERA but strips away balls in play that are outside the pitchers’ control — Ottavino’s performance was fairly steady. He notched a 3.44 mark in 2019 and a 3.52 FIP in 2020. He is 35 years old, but the Red Sox are likely to have a solid reliever on their hands.

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