Yankees send Adam Ottavino to Boston in rare trade with Red Sox

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Wanting to slash salary to avoid paying luxury tax, the New York Yankees opted to make a rare trade with the Boston Red Sox.

Boston acquired struggling reliever Adam Ottavino along with minor league right-hander Frank German from the Yankees on Monday for a player to be named or cash.

As part of the trade, the Yankees agreed to send Boston $850,000 on July 1 to cover part of the $8 million owed to Ottavino, a 35-year-old right-hander entering the final season of a $27 million, three-year contract. New York remains responsible for Ottavino’s $3 million signing bonus, due next Jan. 15.

“I know it’s the Yankees and I understand what that means and it’s the most storied rivalry in sports,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said. “But if we’re not willing to do something that helps us because it also helps them, or worse, if we’re worried that it might not go as we expect and it blows up in our faces and we looked at it, well, then, we’re just playing scared, and we’re not going to play scared.”

This was just the second trade since 1987 between the rivals. When New York obtained infielder Stephen Drew from Boston on 2014 for infielder/outfielder Kelly Johnson, it was the first Yankees-Red Sox trade since Boston dealt first baseman/catcher Mike Stanley to New York for pitcher Tony Armas Jr. and a player to be named, who became pitcher Jim Mecir.

“I was a little surprised today when I got the news but all things considered, Boston’s always a place I want to play,” Ottavino said, speaking in front of a painting of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, made by his mother-in-law. “I feel like I’m going to end up a trivia question now.”

A Brooklyn native who attended college in Boston at Northeastern, Ottavino signed with the Yankees before the 2019 season and took No. 0, the Yankees’ last available single digit. He had a successful first season that included a 6-5 record and 1.90 ERA as he became a key setup man for closer Aroldis Chapman along with Zack Britton, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle.

But he slumped to a 5.89 ERA during pandemic-shortened 2020, the highest of his nine full big league seasons, and manager Aaron Boone did not use him with a lead in the late innings of close games in the final week of the season or during the playoffs. Ottavino’s low point was when he allowed six runs against Toronto on Sept. 7 without getting any outs.

“2020 was a tough year,” he said. “Didn’t throw the way I wanted to overall and then had probably the worst game of my career right there in the middle that made it that much harder to deal with and then didn’t really get much of a chance in the playoffs. So it was tough. … .”

He walked nine in 18 1/3 innings last year and 40 in 66 1/3 innings in 2019. Still, he struck out 25 last season, 88 in 2019 and 112 over 77 2/3 innings in 2018.

“There are guys who miss a lot of bats and also walk people because a lot of what they miss bats with are pitches that are running out of the strike zone, and people swing at them.” Bloom said. “So sometimes you have to take the good with the bad, but there’s always ways on the margins to improve guys.”

Ottavino’s cutter velocity dropped from an average of 91 mph in 2017 to 86.5 mph last year.

“I’ve been working on some different things with my breaking balls, trying to expand some of the directions I can make the ball break,” he said. “The cutter, as good as it had been for me previous years in setting things up, it also resulted in some home runs, so too many in my opinion.”

New York wants to stay under the $210 million luxury tax payroll threshold. Ottavino figures to count as $924,956 toward the tax payroll for his discounted signing bonus rather than the $8,924,956 entire 2021 figure for his contract, and his departure cuts the Yankees’ projected tax payroll to $203 million. That includes $26 million for pending contracts with second baseman DJ LeMahieu and right-hander Corey Kluber plus $2 million for the rest of their 40-man roster and $7 million for estimated in-season moves, including replacing injured players.

New York’s bullpen already had lost Kahnle, who had Tommy John surgery in August, then became a free agent after the season and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

German, 22, was 4-4 with a 3.79 ERA in 2019 in 15 starts and one relief appearance for Class A Tampa of the Florida State League. Boston had no 2020 scouting on German because minor league seasons were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the Yankees did not hold an instructional league.

“Frankly, one of the more uncomfortable aspects of a trade like this,” Bloom said. “This required a lot of legwork from a lot of different people in our organization.”

Ottavino joins a bullpen that includes Matt Barnes, who had nine saves last season.

“We think we just acquired someone who is really capable of pitching in any kind of late-inning situation,” Bloom said. “How that shakes out as far as who closes, that’s something we’re still going to discuss.”

Boston is retooling after finishing last in the AL East at 24-36. The Red Sox have pending agreements to add free agent second baseman Enrique Hernandez and right-hander Garrett Richards and to retain left-hander Martin Perez.

Bloom said the Red Sox remain in contact with outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who became a free agent.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.