Rule 5 pick Garrett Whitlock makes Red Sox’ Opening Day roster; ‘His reaction was priceless,’ Alex Cora says

It goes without saying that Garrett Whitlock has been one of the feel-good stories at Red Sox camp throughout the spring.

Selected from the Yankees organization in the Rule 5 Draft over the winter, Whitlock came into camp with the proposition of having to stick on the Sox’ active roster throughout the entirety of the 2021 season or he would otherwise be offered back to his former club.

That may seem like a daunting task for a 24-year-old right-hander who hadn’t pitched in an organized minor-league game since 2019 and was working his way back from Tommy John surgery, but Whitlock has clearly been up to the challenge.

Through four Grapefruit League appearances this spring, the Georgia native has allowed just one earned run on eight hits and no walks to go along with 12 strikeouts over nine total innings of work.

To say Whitlock has been impressive would be an understatement, and he was informed on Thursday that he made the Sox’ Opening Day roster.

“Yesterday we informed Garrett Whitlock that he made the team,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced Friday morning. “With everything he’s done throughout camp, not only on the field but also the way he acts, the way he conducts himself. That adds to the equation, and we were very pleased to tell him yesterday.”

Whitlock, a former 18th-round draft pick of the Yankees out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2019. His recovery from the procedure coincided with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re going to be careful with him, obviously,” Cora said. “He’s a Rule 5 pick and he hasn’t pitched in a while. But everything we’ve seen has been good. So he’ll be with us. It’s another addition, and obviously we have to make decisions in the upcoming days, but I do believe this is a solid bullpen.”

While Cora added that the game will dictate how Whitlock will be used, it does seem likely that the lanky righty — despite having 38 career minor-league starts under his belt — will be used in a swingman role with more of an emphasis on pitching multiple innings out of the bullpen when needed.

The Red Sox are planning on carrying 14 pitchers on their 26-man Opening Day roster. For Cora, informing Whitlock that he would be one of those 14 pitchers was a very enjoyable experience.

“He can be a Rule 5 or a 10-year vet, but the way he threw the ball — you guys saw it — he’s getting better and better,” said the Sox skipper. “It’s one of those that as a manager, as a president of baseball operations, GM, whatever, it’s a great moment when you tell somebody that you’re going to be a big-leaguer.

“His reaction was priceless,” added Cora. “It’s all about him. The organization did their homework and we decided to draft him. From there on, it was up to him and he did everything possible to make the team. And I know he’s not going to stop. Trying to keep getting better, studying the game, doing all the right things for him to get to the next level.”

It’s been a unique journey for Whitlock to get to where he is today being on the cusp of making his major-league debut at some point next month.

The 6-foot-5, 190 pound hurler mentioned earlier this spring that getting “to play a kid’s game for a living” is extremely fun and that he’s looking forward to embracing whichever role he is given with his new team out of the chute.

“My college coach told me the best pitching advice I’ve ever had,” Whitlock said while reflecting on his time at UAB. “And that was: ‘When they hand you the ball to go get outs, you go get outs until they come take the ball away from you.’ And so whatever role that is, that’s always going to be my mindset.”

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Rule 5 pick Garrett Whitlock shaping up to be potential ‘secret weapon’ for Red Sox pitching staff

It wasn’t too long ago that Garrett Whitlock was at a crossroads in his professional baseball career.

The lanky right-hander — originally selected by the Yankees in the 18th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of University of Alabama — had his 2019 season cut short after undergoing Tommy John surgery that July.

He didn’t know it at the time, but Whitlock had pitched in his last game as a member of the Yankees organization on July 3, 2019 as his recovery from Tommy John coincided with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The deadline for clubs to add Rule 5-eligble players to their 40-man rosters came and went in November, and Whitlock — who was eligible — was not added by New York, meaning he was now eligible for the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.

The following month, the 24-year-old was taken off the board by the Red Sox, breathing new life into his baseball journey as a kid from Snellville, Ga.

By being selected by Boston in the Rule 5 Draft, Whitlock was now tasked with making Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training and sticking there for the entirety of the 2021 season or he would otherwise have to be offered back to his former club.

Prior to joining the Red Sox over the winter, Whitlock had primarily served as a starter in his time with the Yankees organization, but given the fact his new team is flush with starting pitching depth, a spot in Boston’s Opening Day rotation was essentially out of the question.

Instead, the 6-foot-5, 190 pound righty was to be made a swingman of sorts who could pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen or make a spot start or two when needed.

He was to still be stretched out over the course of the spring, but not with the intentions of being a fulltime starter once the season begins.

Thus far, handing down that role to Whitlock has netted nothing but positive results at big-league camp in Fort Myers.

Through his first four Grapefruit League appearances, the Georgia native has yielded just one earned run on eight hits, no walks, and 12 strikeouts over nine total innings of work, most recently fanning five Rays hitters over three scoreless, no-hit frames at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon.

“What Garrett did today, that was impressive,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “But he’s been doing that the whole spring. It’s a good fastball. He’s able to elevate with it late in counts, and it was a great day for him.”

For someone who had not pitched in a competitive environment in nearly two years, the way in which Whitlock has gone about his business on and off the mound has stood out to Cora.

“He was hungry to compete,” said the Sox skipper. “He hasn’t been able to compete in a while. And he’s bought into the concept of the things that we do here, and he’s executing. He’s very talented… He watches every bullpen, he watches the B games, he goes to sim games, and he goes to the dugout when he’s not pitching. That makes you a better baseball player, and in his case it makes him a better pitcher.

“I think it’s that confidence that he has,” Cora added. “First of all, we trust him, right? Because we decided to pick him in the Rule 5 after coming from surgery. Second, with the things that we’re preaching and what he’s doing, he has to feel great. But one thing about him, he’ll show up tomorrow and he’ll ask a question: ‘What can I do better?’ That’s the key of this thing and he’s done that the whole camp.”

Working the sixth through eighth innings of Friday’s contest against the Rays, Whitlock, donning the No. 72, was one of three pitchers who relieved starter Nathan Eovaldi.

A fellow right-hander who knows the ins-and-outs of Tommy John surgery, it’s safe to say Eovaldi has been impressed with what he’s seen from Whitlock so far at camp.

“I’m very excited for him,” Eovaldi said during his in-game media availability. “The first time I saw him throw at spring training, it was early in camp and I was impressed. He’s got a great changeup, he’s got great command, he’s quiet, he’s very quiet and determined to be a part of this team, and he’s going about his business the right way.

“So I’m not surprised with what he’s been able to do out there on the field just because of the way he’s handling himself in and around the clubhouse and out there in the bullpen,” the fireballer added. “He’s kind of our secret weapon right there, so he’s looking great.”

Whitlock himself is not taking anything for granted this spring. He explained on Friday how undergoing Tommy John surgery changed his perspective on multiple facets of his life — including his faith — and how he is just overjoyed to be playing baseball for a living.

“When you have an operation like Tommy John, it’s never given that you’re going to play again,” he said. “I promised to myself that if I was going to get a second chance and I was going to be back out on the field, I would never take a day for granted again. Because every little kid’s dream is to play professional baseball, and I don’t care if it’s in the [Gulf Coast League] level or the major-league level, I get to play a kid’s game for a living. It’s so much fun.”

Given how he has performed this spring, Whitlock, as previously mentioned, is a sure bet to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster as a swingman/hybrid-type reliever who can also start when necessary.

Regardless of what role he undertakes beginning April 1, though, Whitlock will just be going out there to do his job, or in other words, get outs. That is something that was drilled into him during his time at UAB.

“My college coach told me the best pitching advice I’ve ever had,” he recalled. “And that was: ‘When they hand you the ball to go get outs, you go get outs until they come take the ball away from you.’ And so whatever role that is, that’s always going to be my mindset.”

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Adam Ottavino fans a pair in Red Sox debut, says closing out games is not ‘a must’ for him, but would be something he would ‘definitely embrace’

A little less than two months after being acquired in a surprising trade with the Yankees, Adam Ottavino made his Red Sox debut against the Braves at JetBlue Park on Wednesday afternoon.

Getting the call for the top half of the fourth inning, the veteran right-hander retired three of the four hitters he faced while picking up his first two strikeouts — one looking, one swinging — of the spring.

For Ottavino, Wednesday’s outing marked the first time he had thrown in front of fans in nearly a year, and it also marked the first time he threw in a game with Christian Vazquez behind the plate.

“I felt pretty good out there,” Ottavino said of his performance. “It was exciting to have people in the crowd again and throw to Vazquez for the first time in a game. So that type of stuff was good to get out of the way. And physically it felt good, so that was the bonus.”

As he prepares to embark upon his first season with the Red Sox, Ottavino has the chance to emerge as the club’s closer coming out of camp. He is currently competing with fellow right-handed reliever Matt Barnes for that job.

Over the course of his 10-year major-league career, the 35-year-old hurler has only notched 19 lifetime saves, a majority of which came with the Rockies from 2015-2018.

The closer role is one that Ottavino hasn’t had to undertake in quite a while, but it is not one he would shy away from if given the opportunity to do so with his new team.

“It would be great,” he said when asked how it would feel to close out games for the Red Sox. “The last time I had the job was right before I got hurt in 2015 and a little bit in 2016 when I came back. It was exciting. I really enjoyed it. It’s not something that I feel like is a must for me, but it is something I would definitely embrace. If Alex [Cora] gives me the ball in the ninth, I’ll definitely be pumped up about that.”

For his career, the former Cardinals, Rockies, and Yankees reliever owns a lifetime 2.76 ERA and .596 OPS against when pitching in the ninth inning of games.

Barnes, meanwhile, has posted a 4.03 ERA and .690 OPS against when working in the ninth inning over the course of his seven-year career with Boston.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora has gone as far to say that there is no frontrunner in the team’s closer competition, but the competition between Ottavino and Barnes itself is interesting due to the fact that neither have extensive closing experience and both are slated to become free agents at the end of the 2021 season.

Despite not having too much experience as a closer, though, Ottavino already seems to know what adjustments he will need to make if he does indeed win the job out of spring training.

“I think the biggest thing is you’re pretty much starting clean 80% of the time,” said the Brooklyn native. “You might finish off the eighth once in a while, but for the most part you’re starting clean in the ninth. You know exactly what it’s going to take to get the job done. Whether you’re up by one or up by three or whatever the case may be. So you kind of pitch to the scoreboard a little bit in that way and just try to do your job for the team.

“I’m sure I would get a lot more pinch-hitters — probably lefties, that sort of thing — but I’ve done it before,” he added. “I think the biggest thing is just attacking that first guy and putting yourself in a good position for success.”

The reason Ottavino specifically brought up the possibility of facing left-handed pinch-hitters is because of the struggles he has had against lefty bats in general since making his big-league debut for St. Louis in 2010.

Last season alone, across 24 appearances out of the Yankees bullpen, the Northeastern University product allowed left-handed hitters to slash .294/.458/.353 off of him.

This aspect of his game, not his ability to close out games, seems to take precedence for Ottavino as free agency looms.

“I have no idea what they’re looking at these days in terms of roles and stuff like that,” he said. “But I do think it would benefit me to get a full season in of facing as many lefties as possible so I can put that narrative to bed and show that I can dominate both sides. That would probably be a bonus, but beyond that, I think regardless of role I’m looking to put together a great season. Not only for myself, but for the team.”

Ottavino, who primarily relies on his sinker-slider combination to dominate his competition, has quickly become one of the more intriguing pitchers — if not players — the Red Sox have on their major-league roster.

“He’s just very smart, a great communicator,” Cora said of Ottavino Wednesday. “Him and Christian [Vazquez] were talking about sequences and pitch shapes in the dugout. Like I said before, we’re happy that he’s with us. He’s a great addition to our bullpen and is a guy that we trust.”

Right-handed pitching prospect Frank German, who New York included in the trade that sent Ottavino to Boston, also made his Red Sox debut against the Braves on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old maneuvered his way around a leadoff single and two out-walk while striking out one in a scoreless top of the eighth to pick up his first hold of the spring.

(Picture of Adam Ottavino: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Adam Ottavino ‘a big part’ of what Red Sox are trying to accomplish, Alex Cora says: ‘I’m happy that he’s pitching for us’

When the Red Sox traded for Adam Ottavino last month, the move was greeted with plenty of shock since he was coming over in a trade with the Yankees that seemingly came out of no where.

As it turns out, though, Ottavino could prove to be a vital piece of Boston’s late-inning bullpen puzzle this coming season. The veteran reliever has already made a positive first impression on Red Sox manager Alex Cora at the onset of spring training in Fort Myers.

“Very smart individual,” Cora said Saturday in regards to Ottavino. “He’s very quiet. He moves very smoothly and very slow around. But, when you talk to him, he opens up. He knows a lot about pitching. He knows himself. Like he told me a few days ago, he’s excited to be here.”

Boston acquired Ottavino — as well as right-handed pitching prospect Frank German and cash considerations — from New York on January 25 in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later.

The 35-year-old right-hander is six months removed from a 2020 campaign with the Yankees in which he posted a 5.89 ERA and .770 OPS against over 24 appearances and 18 1/3 innings pitched.

Upon closer inspection, however, six of the 12 earned runs Ottavino surrendered last year came against the Blue Jays on September 7, an outing in which he failed to record a single out. If you take that one blowup away, his ERA on the season drops to 2.98.

For his major-league career, which dates back to 2010, Ottavino has not surprisingly had more troubles against left-handed hitting (.792 OPS against) than right-handed hitting (.615 OPS against), but the ex-Rockie will still get the chance to face hitters from both sides of the plate with his new club.

“We talked a little bit about the way we’re going to use him, and we’re not going to limit him to righties,” added Cora. “He’s going to get lefties and righties out. He worked hard in the offseason to improve a few things. He threw a bullpen today, actually Christian [Vazquez] caught him. This is a guy that was very dominant in Colorado. He was dominant two years ago [in New York]. He had a bad outing against Toronto last year. So, he’s a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish and I’m happy that he’s pitching for us.”

Working primarily with a sinker, slider, cutter, and changeup, Ottavino originally attended Northeastern University before getting selected by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2006 amateur draft.

While at Northeastern from 2004-2006, the Brooklyn native got the chance to watch the Red Sox from up close since the university’s campus is just a few blocks away from Fenway Park.

“When I was in college, I went there regularly,” Ottavino said last month of his past experiences at Fenway. “I would get the standing room tickets after practice, especially if [Curt] Schilling or Pedro [Martinez] was pitching. Try to watch those guys from behind home plate up the stairs there.”

In addition to watching the Sox when he was younger, playing for them is actually something he has envisioned doing as recently as his free agency in the winter of 2018/2019.

“The Red Sox were one of my top teams I wanted to go to at that time,” said Ottavino, who ultimately wound up signing a three-year, $27 million deal with the Yankees. “They reached out early in the process but it never really got off the ground… The team had just won the World Series, so there was nothing not to like there. Boston has always been a place I saw myself playing. So it was definitely one of the teams at the very beginning of the process I was hoping would reach out to me. And they did and it never got off the ground. But I still appreciate the interest, for sure.”

Now that he is with the Red Sox, the 6-foot-5, 246 lb. hurler figures to be part of a group of relievers made up of Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Hirokazu Sawamura, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Josh Taylor; all of whom will be vying for the role as Boston’s closer over the next month-plus.

That being said, Cora was rather mum about which sort of specific role Ottavino will be undertaking out of the bullpen once the 2021 season does begin.

“He’s going to get big outs in the last third of the game,” the Sox skipper said with a wry smile. “Whenever you ask me about these guys (Barnes, Brasier, etc.), that’s going to be the answer.”

(Picture of Adam Ottavino: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Red Sox ‘have some interest’ in free-agent reliever Ben Heller, per report

As pitchers and catchers report to their respective spring training camps this week, the Red Sox are reportedly interested in adding to their bullpen mix.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Sox “have some interest” in free-agent right-handed reliever Ben Heller.

Heller, 29, was released by the Yankees last week after initially being designated for assignment so that the club could make room on its 40-man roster for fellow reliever Darren O’Day.

In parts of four seasons (2016-17, 2019-20) with New York, the Wisconsin native posted a 2.59 ERA and 5.57 FIP over 31 total appearances and 31 1/3 innings of work.

The reason Heller did not pitch in 2018 was due to the fact that he underwent Tommy John surgery that also involved the removal of a bone spur in his throwing elbow in April of that year.

Per Baseball Savant, the 6-foot-3, 210 lb. righty operates with a four-seam fastball, a curveball, and a changeup.

Originally selected by the Indians in the 22nd round of the 2013 draft out of Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.), Heller is perhaps most notably known for being part of the trade that sent left-hander Andrew Miller to Cleveland and outfielder Clint Frazier and lefty Justus Sheffield, then top prospects, to New York in July 2016.

As noted by Cotillo, Heller should be a popular name on the free-agent market because not only has he put up decent numbers in the majors, but he’s also under team control for three more seasons and has one minor-league option remaining on his contract.

Taking those factors into consideration, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to think that Heller could net himself a major-league deal — or at the very least a potentially lucrative minor-league pact with an invite to big-league camp — at some point before Opening Day.

If the Red Sox were to sign Heller, or another available reliever, to a major-league contract, they would have to clear a 40-man roster spot for that individual since their 40-man is currently at full capacity.

That note does not take into account that utilityman Marwin Gonzalez still needs to be added to the 40-man as well since his signing has not yet been made official.

(Picture of Ben Heller: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox minor-league coach Chris Hess joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by one of the Red Sox’ newest minor-league coaches in Chris Hess.

Among the topics Hess and I discussed were his college career at the University of Rhode Island, how he found out he got drafted in 2017, his professional career with the Yankees, what led him to join the Red Sox as a minor-league coach, what it will be like to work with Bianca Smith, and much more.

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Chris for taking some time out of his Thursday night to have a conversation with me. You can check out his 401 Elite Baseball Training program by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Chris Hess: Rhody Rampage)

Chaim Bloom on newest Red Sox prospect Frank German: ‘We’re excited to get him in here and keep molding him’

Right-handed pitching prospect Frank German may be the lesser-known of the two players the Red Sox acquired from the Yankees on Monday, but don’t let that fool you into believing he has little to offer his new club.

The 23-year-old was originally drafted by New York in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of North Florida, though he did also get looks from a few of the Yankees’ fiercest division rivals during the pre-draft process.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said as much himself when speaking with reporters on Monday.

“He’s an interesting prospect that I know this organization has had an eye on since he was in the draft,” Bloom said of German via Zoom. “I remember talking about him in our draft room when I was with the Rays. He was at North Florida and was kind of a pop-up guy that spring.”

Last time German saw any organized minor-league action (excluding rehab stints), he posted a 3.79 ERA and 3.56 xFIP over 16 outings (15 starts) and 76 innings pitched for the High-A Tampa Tarpons in 2019.

The native of Queens put up those numbers while working with a high-velocity four-seam fastball in addition to an evolving repertoire of secondary pitches that includes a changeup.

“He’s a power arm with a really good fastball that has good velo, good life,” said Bloom. “The secondaries are coming. The fastball is certainly the foundation right now, but that’s a great place to start. When a guy shows that he has a fastball that has the power and the life to be effective, and it’s a big-league fastball.

“A good body, athletic,” he continued. “A guy who improved a lot in a short period of time starting near the end of his college career. The type of guy that you would bet on to be able to make more improvement, so we’re excited to get him in here and keep molding him.”

One caveat that comes with the Red Sox acquiring a prospect such as German is the fact that there was no minor-league season last year.

On top of that, German was not included in the Yankees’ 60-man player pool, nor did he participate in a fall instructional league since New York did not have one. So, he was basically left to further his development with his own resources.

Having said all that, the Sox were essentially working with little to no new data and instead had to rely on information pertaining to German from 2019 and earlier, which can make these sorts of transactions a bit unnerving.

“This was one of the more interesting aspects of a trade like this, and frankly one of the more uncomfortable aspects of a trade like this is that there’s not as much information on his 2020,” Bloom stated. “This required a lot of legwork from a lot of different people in our organization, especially [vice president of professional scouting] Gus Quattlebaum and [director of professional scouting] Harrison Slutsky and their group.

“And then, really marshalling different resources to get as much intel as we could,” he added. “There’s no question when you’re acquiring a prospect right now — especially one that didn’t participate in an instructional league — there’s more unknowns. Now, we don’t want to be scared off too much by that because those can play in both directions. We felt we had enough intel on his situation to be comfortable making the trade, but it was definitely something that we had to work through and we had to get comfortable with.”

With the start date of the minor-league season below the Triple-A level getting pushed back until later in the spring, where German will began his Red Sox career — likely Greenville or Portland — has yet to be discussed.

What is clear now, however, is that the flame-throwing, 6-foot-2, 195 lb. hurler will remain a starter for the time being even if his path to the next level involves a move to the bullpen somewhere down the line.

“As far as his role, I think generally speaking, when a guy has had success in a starting role, you don’t want to cut off the upside of him continuing to have that success, absent some critical, immediate need,” Bloom said. “There are exceptions, but a lot of those exceptions come from really knowing the person and the player, and obviously we need to get to know him better. But, I could see him doing either in the future. It really depends on where he goes. But, like I said, he’s got a really good foundation with the athleticism and the fastball that he has, and we want to keep him developing.”

German, who does not turn 24 until September, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 27 prospect. He will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this coming December, so he is probably someone you want to get familiar with between now and the November 20 deadline.

(Picture of Frank German: Jon Monaghan/Broken Bat Media)

Red Sox acquire right-handed reliever Adam Ottavino, right-handed pitching prospect Frank German from Yankees in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later

The trade is now official. The Red Sox will be parting ways with a player to be named later or cash considerations in exchange for Ottavino and German.

The Red Sox have acquired right-handed reliever Adam Ottavino and right-handed pitching prospect Frank German from the New York Yankees, according to The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman.

This deal marks the first time the division rivals have made a trade with one another since 2014.

Ottavino, 35, is entering the final year of the three-year, $27 million contract he signed with the Yankees in January 2019.

The Brooklyn native is slated to earn $8 million in 2021, but for luxury tax purposes, his salary is essentially $9 million.

Adding on to that, Ottavino’s deal with New York includes a deferred $3 million signing bonus that that will be paid out in 2022, so the Red Sox will be on the hook for $11 million when it comes to the right-hander’s salary minus the $850,000 being covered by the Yankees, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

For a trade involving only two players, the terms are quite confusing. So, for clarity’s sake, here’s the full deal, courtesy of MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:

As previously mentioned, Ottavino is slated to become a free agent at the end of the 2021 season.

The former first-round draft pick is coming off a 2020 campaign with New York in which he posted a 5.89 ERA but a much more respectable 3.52 FIP over 24 appearances and 18 1/3 innings pitched out of the Yankees bullpen.

Half of the 12 earned runs Ottavino surrendered last year came in a six-run blow-up against the Blue Jays on September 7 in which he failed to record a single out. If you take that one outing away, Ottavino’s ERA on the season drops to 2.98.

An alumnus of Northeastern University in Boston, Ottavino was once interested in joining the Red Sox as a free-agent going into the 2019 season. They, however, were not interested in allocating significant financial recourses to a singular reliever at that time.

“I think initially, I did expect [Boston] to be in on relief pitching prior to the offseason,” Ottavino said in March 2019. “Once it got going and you just saw their level of involvement, then I kind of felt like they were not trying to spend any money and stay where they were financially. As it kept going, I just started realizing that was more the case.”

Ottavino, after signing a three-year deal with New York that January, would go on to have a superb debut season with the Yankees, putting up a miniscule 1.90 ERA over 73 appearances spanning 66 1/3 innings of work.

Working primarily with a slider, a sinker, cutter, changeup, and four-seam fastball, Ottavino will look to regain that old form with his new club and figures to be used in late-inning situations alongside the likes of Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Josh Taylor.

As for the other player the Red Sox acquired in this deal, German was originally selected by New York in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of North Florida.

The 23-year-old right-hander was regarded by MLB Pipeline as the Yanks’ No. 24 prospect.

Last time he saw any organized minor-league action, German — aside from two rehab stints in the Gulf Coast League — posted a 3.79 ERA and 3.56 xFIP in 16 appearances (15 starts) and 76 innings pitched with High-A Tampa in 2019.

German was not included in the Yankees’ 60-man player pool last season.

With the reported addition of Ottavino, the Red Sox now have four players (Ottavino, Enrique Hernandez, Garrett Richards, Martin Perez) who will need to be added to the club’s 40-man roster in the coming days.

Since this trade is now official (see top tweet from the Red Sox’ offical Twitter account), Boston’s 40-man roster is currently at full capacity as Ottavino takes C.J. Chatham’s spot.

That said, the Sox will have to clear three 40-man spots to make room for Hernandez, Richards, and Perez. Stay tuned for those moves.

(Picture of Adam Ottavino: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Red Sox reached out to DJ LeMahieu early on in free agency, could reconnect with veteran infielder this week (report)

In addition to improving their starting pitching depth, one of the holes the Red Sox need to address this offseason is at second base.

Boston is coming off a 2020 season in which its second basemen posted an American League-worst OPS of .586 and American League-worst wRC+ of 55.

The club was aggressive in their pursuit of coveted Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim to fill that hole at second base, but the 25-year-old inked a four-year, $28 million deal with the Padres in late December.

With Kim off the market, the Sox may very well turn to another highly-touted free agent second baseman in three-time All-Star D.J. LeMahieu.

LeMahieu, according to Yahoo Sports‘ Tim Brown, “has become dismayed by the slow-play tactics of the Yankees, along with other clubs.”

The 32-year-old out of Louisiana State University is coming off another successful season with the Bronx Bombers in which he slashed .364/.421/.590 with 10 home runs, 10 doubles, and 27 RBI over 50 games (216 plate appearances) in 2020.

Emerging as perhaps one of the best infielders in baseball in his time with New York, LeMahieu is reportedly seeking a new contract this winter that exceeds “Josh Donaldson’s four-year, $92 million deal with the Minnesota Twins and [is] at least on par with J.D. Martinez’s five years and $110 million with the Boston Red Sox.

“The Yankees, LeMahieu’s preferred club after two successful seasons in the Bronx, have not met those terms,” Brown writes.

Given his frustrations, LeMahieu has asked “his representatives to re-engage with teams that have previously shown the most interest…and to reconnect with teams that reached out early in the free agent period.”

The Red Sox are one of the teams that reportedly reached out to the two-time batting champ early on in the free agent period, likely in late October or early November.

They could also be one of the teams planning to meet virtually with LeMahieu at some point this week, according to Brown, seeing how they are “seeking to fill holes at second or third base.”

One caveat that comes with pursuing LeMahieu is the fact that he has a $18.9 million qualifying offer attached to him, meaning the Red Sox — or any club besides the Yankees — would have to forfeit a 2021 second-draft pick as well as $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money in order to sign him.

Back in November, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom stated that he would not shy away from certain free-agents with QOs attached to them as long as they fit a team need.

“I think it’s our responsibility to engage on everybody that could fit us,” Bloom said via a Zoom call. “Obviously when you’re talking about somebody that has a qualifying offer on them, the cost to us in signing them is greater and you have to factor that in on some level. But I don’t like ruling us out on anybody.”

While not ruling the likes of LeMahieu out then, Bloom also emphasized the significance second-round picks can have for an organization, citing Jon Lester (2002) and Dustin Pedroia (2004) as prime examples in the Sox’ case when speaking with reporters last month.

“All draft picks are calculated risks to some extent,” Bloom said. “There’s no guarantees with any of them. You can look at 2002 and 2004 just to see how valuable a second round pick can be in this organization. It’s really valuable. You saw this past year in the draft, we didn’t have one. And as a result we had to navigate the draft differently than we might have if we had our pick in that round. So it matters. It obviously has value. It gives you a very good shot at an impactful player. And so you just have to factor that in. It’s not an absolute one way or the other. But you can’t be blind to the value that you’re giving up in
that scenario.”

In addition to the constraints — both financial and developmental — bringing in LeMahieu would create, the right-handed hitter’s swing may not even play that well at Fenway Park in comparison to how it plays at Yankee Stadium.

That being the case because, as The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier noted in December, LeMahieu’s “batted-ball profile — a right-handed hitter who drills liners to the opposite field — represents an ideal fit for Yankee Stadium but a poor one for Fenway.”

In 14 career games and 65 career plate appearances inside Fenway Park, LeMahieu has posted a .516 OPS, which pales in comparison to his lifetime OPS of 1.042 at Yankee Stadium.

With those numbers in mind, LeMahieu could very well be attempting to use the Red Sox as leverage in this scenario, and the Red Sox, upon getting in touch with the veteran infielder’s reps in the fall, may have just been doing their due diligence, as noted by MLB Trade Rumors’ Mark Polishuk.

Still, it is somewhat fascinating to see that Boston could be in play for a premier free-agent like LeMahieu at this stage in the offseason, though I don’t really see the two sides coming to terms on a long-term contract that lines up with what the 32-year-old is looking for anytime soon.

(Photo of D.J. LeMahieu: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Red Sox select right-hander Garrett Whitlock from Yankees in major-league phase of 2020 Rule 5 Draft

For the second consecutive year under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox partook in in the major-league portion of Major League Baseball’s Rule 5 Draft, selecting right-hander Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees organization.

Whitlock, 24, was originally drafted by New York in the 18th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

A native of Georgia, Whitlock most recently pitched at the Double-A level in 2019, posting a 3.07 ERA and 3.09 xFIP over 14 starts and 70 1/3 innings pitched for Trenton before undergoing Tommy John surgery last July.

The 6-foot-5, 190 lb. righty relies on a three-pitch mix that includes an average sinker, slider, and changeup, per his FanGraphs scouting report. He also works from a lower arm slot, which allows him to add more deception to his delivery.

Based off the fact he underwent Tommy John last summer, Whitlock should be ready for the start of the 2021 season, especially when you consider the fact he was up to 94 mph in August.

Assuming Whitlock is healthy and is still on the team come February, one might expect him to compete for a spot either at the back end of Boston’s starting rotation or as a swingman capable of providing multiple innings out of the bullpen. We will have to wait and see on that.

With the addition of Whitlock, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster currently sits at 39 players.

And of course, as noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, “Boston paid New York $100,000 for [Whitlock]. He must remain on the active roster the entire 2021 season (barring an injured list stint) or be offered back to his previous club, the Yankees, for $50,000.”