January 26, 2021

Yankees May Rue Trading Reliever Adam Ottavino To Red Sox

The Red Sox and Yankees almost never do business with each other, but New York has traded relief pitcher Adam Ottavino (and pitcher Frank Graham) to Boston for a player to be named later. It's only the second trade the two rivals have made in 23 years.

This is a cost-cutting move for the Yankees. The Red Sox will be responsible for $7.15 million of Ottavino's $8 million salary this season.

Ottavino, a 35-year-old right-hander, was good in 2019 (1.90 ERA in 66.1 innings) and bad in 2020 (5.89 ERA in only 18.1 innings). That's a huge difference in ERA, but his underlying stats are not so wildly different. (He allowed six of his 12 runs last year in one zero-out appearance against Toronto.)

        OBP   SLG   OPS  BABIP    FIP
2019   .316  .308  .624   .286   3.44
2020   .353  .419  .772   .375   3.52

Who is Frank German? Over the Monster reports that he is:

a fourth round pick by the Yankees back in 2018. Now 23 years old (he'll turn 24 in late September, German pitched in High-A back in 2019, making 15 starts plus one relief appearance for a total of 76 innings that year. In that time he pitched to a 3.79 ERA with 82 strikeouts (25 percent rate) and 35 walks (11 percent rate). He was ranked number 32 in the Yankees organization prior to last season by FanGraphs, who wrote of him at the time as a current starter who experienced a velocity spike at the end of his college career, but is more likely to settle into a relief role at the major-league level.

The Red Sox had their eye on Ottavino after winning the 2018 World Series, but he ended up signing a 3/27 deal with the Yankees. Now, he says he may have become too predictable on the mound and wants to change his way of pitching.

I don't want to give away too many things but for me, multiple shapes of my breaking pitches, I think, is the area where I can be elite at. That's the category that I feel like is my specialty. So, just trying to lean into that and grab a little better control of pitches that break downward as well as sideways and everything in between. . . . I feel like over the last couple of years, I kind of fell in love with the one shape that I had of the slider, which is kind of what everybody knows. I actually got more and more consistent throwing that pitch and I just think that hitters could kind of track the break on it because it was always kind of the same. So my goal was to be a little less consistent if that makes sense.

Lindsey Adler, The Athletic:

Yankees fans can reasonably reject the Ottavino trade based on performance or principle. Ottavino is a native Brooklynite who has a great arsenal when it's working and could frustrate the Yankees now that he has been traded within the division. . . .

There's reason to believe Ottavino can put together a strong 2021 season for the Red Sox. . . . At his best, he can be lethal against a heavily right-handed lineup — which he seems likely to face against the Yankees this season. . . .

The Ottavino trade was an obvious flashpoint for a fan base tired of the championship drought that has persisted since 2009. . . .

[W]ithin the Yankees' window of contention, fans have watched free agents and trade targets be passed over because of salary or contract terms, only to later watch the team come up short in the postseason. . . . [T]he frustration was growing for years before the team executed a salary dump to stay under the luxury tax that sent a talented reliever to the team's biggest rival. It's ugly on its face, even if Yankees brass can provide a reasonable explanation.

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