Yankees trade reliever Adam Ottavino to Boston

New York Yankees, Adam Ottavino

In a surprising turn of events, the New York Yankees traded reliever Adam Ottavino to the Boston Red Sox. The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler was the first to report that a transaction was in place.

Ottavino has one year left in the three-year pact he signed with the New York Yankees before the 2019 season.

It was the first trade between the Red Sox and Yankees since the teams swapped Stephen Drew and Kelly Johnson back in 2014.

The Yankees attached a prospect (pitcher Frank German) to get Boston to pay most of his salary in the 2021 season, thus giving the Bombers more flexibility as they look to improve the bullpen and add a left-handed bat before spring training begins.

As Joel Sherman of the New York Post pointed out, Ottavino is due $8M this year and counts $9M for luxury tax purposes. “Getting out of most of it gives the Yankees more maneuverability to try to go for more SP, another RP, LH bat or SS depth. Gave up prospect to get out of most of the $ and create flexibility,” he wrote via Twitter.

Ottavino’s stay with the Yankees was short

After a solid first season with the Yankees in 2019, in which he had a 1.90 ERA and a 3.44 FIP in 66.1 innings with a 11.94 K/9 mark, Ottavino struggled during the playoffs that year and wasn’t able to right the ship in 2020.

Last season, he had an ugly 5.89 ERA, but it wasn’t all bad. His FIP was a very manageable 3.52, and he still missed bats with his 12.27 K/9 mark.

Overall, we can say that Ottavino wasn’t as good for the Yankees as his 1.90 ERA in 2019 suggests, but he also wasn’t as bad as his 2020 ERA.

German is 23 and hasn’t pitched in the upper minors. Although he is far from the majors and may not profile as an ace, he is a legitimate prospect. In 76 2019 innings in Class A-Advanced, he had a 3.79 ERA and a 4.19 FIP with a 9.71 K/9 and a 4.14 BB/9.

BREAKING: Cactus League asks MLB to delay start of spring training

In an attempt to prioritize public safety in the middle of a pandemic, the Arizona Cactus League urged MLB to delay the start of spring training until at least mid-March. The reason behind the petition is Maricopa County’s high COVID infection rate.

The petition is signed by Bridget Binsbacher, the executive director of the Cactus League; Mayors of several Arizona cities; and other authorities.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the Cactus League “has no authority over spring training starting. But the health-and-safety issues remain an unanswered question for MLB and MLBPA. And this is something that is going to need resolution very soon, with spring training set to begin in mid-February.”

The Maricopa County has been hit hard by COVID-19 infections, and the location hosting 10 teams could result in some unwanted consequences that could include players and staffers getting infected.

What will MLB do?

Florida is in a similar scenario, although the Grapefruit League authorities haven’t made any petitions to MLB. There are COVID-19 concerns in several locations in Florida that could potential affect a normal spring training.

In the statement published by the Cactus League, they refer to projection numbers from the University of Washington that says cases should decline by mid-March, at least in theory.

If MLB decides to concede the Cactus League’s petitions, it will obviously mean that the start of the season will be pushed back once again. With pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training in about three weeks, any decisions by the league should come very soon.

As a reminder, COVID-19 and a dispute between MLB and the players’ association delayed the start of the 2020 campaign by months, with the show starting in late-July. Such a scenario is unlikely this time around, but the possibility of another late beginning exists. Stay tuned.

New York Yankees “rekindled conversations” with free agent outfielder

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

The New York Yankees have been busy in the last couple of weeks, mostly addressing their pitching needs. They have brough starters Corey Kluber, via free agency, and Jameson Taillon, via trade.

However, there are still a couple of areas that the Yankees need to improve to increase their already high chances of making a deep playoff run. Namely, they need to add one or two relievers and a left-handed bat.

For years, the New York Yankees have had that left-handed bat in Brett Gardner. Late in his career, he morphed into a power threat from the left side of the plate, while remaining effective on the basepaths and on the field.

He is now a free agent, and the Yankees largely ignored him for weeks. Now that they have addressed the pitching woes that the roster had, they are now reportedly picking up their interest in Gardner.

Jack Curry of YES Network reported that the Yankees recently “rekindled conversations” with the free agent outfielder with an eye on the 2021 campaign.

The Yankees could use his veteran presence and left-handed bat

Curry explained that the two sides started talking again after the Yankees secured the return of infielder DJ LeMahieu. Gardner isn’t expected to be a regular since the team has Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Tauchman, but he can start occasionally versus righties and be available from the bench in a variety of roles.

The Yankees declined their $10 million club option to bring him back at the start of the offseason, but are interested in him returning at a lower salary, as they try to stay below the $210M threshold in payroll.

The 37-year-old Gardner slashed just .223/.354/.392 during the truncated 2020 season, but started rounding into form in the campaign’s last few weeks and the playoffs. He had 28 home runs in 2019.

After winning his UFC debut, what’s next for Michael Chandler?

This past Saturday at UFC 257, Michael Chandler (22-5) made his highly anticipated promotional debut. Chandler competed in the co-main event against Dan Hooker (20-10) and many were expecting it to be a tough fight for Chandler.

However, Michael Chandler made a massive statement at UFC 257. Chandler was extremely aggressive in the first round and never gave Hooker the opportunity to get comfortable inside the octagon.

Hooker was being pressured along the cage and never really got a chance to start throwing. Halfway through the round, Chandler through a right straight to the body and followed with a massive left hook up top.

That hook put Hooker down and Chandler followed up with a couple of shots that gave him the knockout win at UFC 257. There were high expectations for Chandler and he passed with flying colors on Saturday night.

What’s next after UFC 257?

Immediately following UFC 257, Dana White said that Chandler would likely meet Dustin Poirier (27-6, 1 NC) for the vacant UFC lightweight title. This is of course assuming that Khabib Nurmagomedov remains retired.

The promotion seemed keen on capitalizing on the eyeballs that were on the card Saturday night. However, Dustin Poirier didn’t sound too enthusiastic about fighting Michael Chandler after Saturday night.

In his post-fight press conference, Poirier made it clear that he wouldn’t be fighting Michael Chandler next. He talked about the fact that Chandler only has one win in the UFC and that shouldn’t warrant a title shot.

In all honesty, I can see where he’s coming from. However, at the end of the day, what the UFC want is ultimately what will happen. That said, I tend to believe that Chandler will not be fighting for the title next.

Chandler strikes me as the type of guy who’s willing to take another fight to prove the point that he deserves the shot. If there’s difficulty in making a UFC title fight for him, I could see him taking on another top contender.

One guy that I think makes a lot of sense for Chandler is Justin Gaethje (22-3). Gaethje is the fight that Chandler originally wanted and he was just the interim UFC lightweight champion. If Chandler can beat Gaethje, there’s no denying the fact that he deserves a title shot.

Nate Diaz wants a shot at Dustin Poirier after UFC 257

This past weekend at UFC 257, Dustin Poirier (27-6, 1 NC) had the performance of his career against Conor McGregor (22-5). Poirier was looking to get his revenge after McGregor had knocked him out six years ago.

The Diamond had some success in the first round, however, McGregor was getting the better of the exchanges. Poirier admitted after the fight that he was hurt in the first round, but McGregor failed to pounce on him.

In the second round, Poirier started butchering the lead leg of the former two-division UFC champion. About two minutes into the round, Poirier landed a leg kick and McGregor’s leg was completely shot.

Poirier pressed McGregor up against the fence and attacked him viciously. After initially defending well, McGregor was caught with a couple of clean rights that put him down and Poirier got the massive knockout win at UFC 257.

In the post-fight press conference, Poirier said only a couple of opponents are interesting to him at this point. He mentioned the trilogy with McGregor, but he also said he wants a fight with Nate Diaz (20-12). Diaz made it clear that he wants that fight too.

Will the UFC book Poirier – Diaz?

Originally, Poirier and Diaz were supposed to fight at UFC 230. However, Poirier had to pull out of the fight with an injury. Diaz has maintained for years that Poirier had been ducking him which is why he pulled out of the fight.

Recently, it was announced that Diaz would be returning to the UFC’s lightweight division. However, at this time we don’t know who the opponent would be for Diaz. Dana White has said that the promotion did have an opponent in mind.

In reality, Diaz and Poirier don’t make sense from a UFC rankings perspective. Diaz hasn’t fought at lightweight in years and Poirier should be fighting for the title in his next fight. However, we know that the promotion sometimes overlooks the rankings.

If Poirier is adamant about fighting Diaz next, the UFC could make it happen. I think a more likely fight with Diaz would be the trilogy with McGregor, however, Stockton’s own has made it clear that he wants The Diamond next.

New York Knicks show one significant positive in loss to Portland

New York Knicks, Julius Randle

The New York Knicks found themselves in a massive hole come the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday evening. Down 50-70 at the half, the Knicks battled their way back into the contest, losing by just three points in the end.

Overall, it was a disappointing performance for a majority of the team, as RJ Barrett scored just eight points. However, there were also stand-out performances, notably Julius Randle who finished with 25, and rookie shooting guard Immanuel Quickley, who finished with 31, a career-high. Quickley continues to impress as he dominates in transition and utilizes his shifty speed and agility to create shots. He connected on 9-of-18 from the field, shooting 50% and hit 5-of-8 3-pointers. He also didn’t miss a free-throw over eight attempts. Another positive stat, he recorded four assists, the second-highest on the team behind Randle.

Quickley is becoming a focal point for the Knicks on offense, playing 24 minutes, equal to starting PG Elfrid Payton.

The New York Knicks battled to until the very last moment:

However, when you’re down 20 points at the half, it is extremely difficult to come back from. Even had coach Tom Thibodeau was impressed with the team’s fight and resiliency.

“It’s impressive. Again,’’ Thibodeau said. “I think that shotmaking is a huge asset for our team. That’s something that we need. He gets better with each outing, puts pressure on people”

While the offense sputtered in the first half, they picked it up significantly in the second, scoring 63 points while Portland finished with just 46.
The Knicks showed off their defensive prowess, as the number one ranked defense in the NBA.

Now, thanks to a strange COVID-19 schedule, they will have a week off to rest up and get some of their injured players healthy.

“Moreso this year with COVID, the schedule is against you and sometimes it’s for you,’’ Thibodeau said. “It usually balances out over the course of the year. We want to have the mental toughness to get through whatever we’re facing. This was the situation which they had been off a long time. You deal with what’s in front of you. We know we have to bring more to a game to win.’’

Report: New York Jets to retain Brant Boyer as ST coordinator

New York Jets

Boyer, who joined the New York Jets in 2016, is currently the only holdover from both the Adam Gase and Todd Bowles eras.

Per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the New York Jets will keep Brant Boyer as their special teams coordinator under head coach Robert Saleh. Boyer, 49, is set to survive the purgings of both Todd Bowles and Adam Gase’s staffs.

The Arizona alum entered coaching in 2012, nearly a decade after his playing career ended. Boyer was a sixth-round choice of the Miami Dolphins in 1994 and played 10 seasons, a majority with Jacksonville (1995-2000). He previously served as a special teams assistant in Indianapolis (2012-15).

Under Boyer’s watch, the Jets sent two specialists to the Pro Bowl during the 2018 season (kicker Jason Myers and returner Andre Roberts). Since Roberts’ departure for Buffalo, Boyer has placed returners in the top 10 in average runback. Braxton Berrios was second in average punt return in 2019 (11.4) while midseason acquisition Corey Ballentine was seventh in kicks this past season (24.0). Notably, defensive lineman Henry Anderson also blocked three kicks over three straight games during the 2018 campaign.

“He understands and trusts us to get ready for Sunday,” Myers said of Boyer during the 2018 season. “In our room, he has a lot of trust for us. It puts you in a good mindset to go out there and just kick the way you want to kick on Sundays.”

“He expects the best out of us every day. He demands a lot, and he cares about each as people as well, off the field,” longer snapper Thomas Hennessy added in that same timeframe. “To have a coach like that, who wants excellence on the field and cares about you as a person off the field, makes you want to play that much for the coach.”

Saleh has continued to fill out the assistants on his staff since his hiring on January 14. During his opening statements last week, Saleh confirmed that fellow former San Francisco compatriot Mike LaFleur would serve as the team’s offensive coordinator while ex-Atlanta assistant Jeff Ulbrich would take over the defense. Ulbrich’s duties will include defensive playcalling.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Yankees Rumors: Cashman trying to trade significant bullpen piece in salary dump

New York Yankees, Adam Ottavino

The New York Yankees have been active in the market the past few days, with general manager Brian Cashman acquiring Corey Kluber and trading for Jameson Taillon.

The Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t take away any significant minor league assets, but the Yankees did add a potentially fantastic starter in the process. Taillon was a former first-round pick by the Pirates back in 2010. He spent a lot of time with Gerrit Cole climbing the Pittsburgh minor-league system, so they’re good friends.

Cole’s relationship with Taillon could’ve played a part in his acquisition, but he’s another injury-prone player making his way to the Yankees. He has undergone Tommy John surgery twice in his career, having missed the entire 2020 season and most of the 2019 season due to injury. The Yankees are taking another risk on a cost-efficient player, as he will earn just $2.25 million in 2021.

Nonetheless, Cashman is still looking for ways to open up money, as he has holes to fill and possibly a bullpen arm to acquire. With that in mind, reports have indicated that Adam Ottavino could be on his way out, given the Yankees can find a trade partner.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees are trying to trade Adam Ottavino:

Opposing executives say the Yankees have been looking for partners to move as much of Adam Ottavino’s $9 million luxury tax number for 2021 as possible.

Ottavino will count $9 million against the luxury tax in 2021, and at 35 years old, he had a tumultuous 2020 season. In fact, he only pitched 18.1 innings, logging a 5.89 ERA but was consistent with his strikeouts, earning 12.27 strikeouts per nine. However, the sample size is so minuscule it’s not even worth considering.

While Otto did have a tough 2020 campaign, he was stellar in 2019 with the Bombers, recording a 1.90 ERA over 66.1 innings. This seems to be more about price-tag than anything else, as it is possible he makes a bounce back this upcoming campaign and shows why the Yankees signed him in the first place.

It seems as if Cashman still wants to add an outfielder and possibly another starting pitcher, but he has very little money to spend at this point. Ownership is pressing him to stay underneath the $210 million luxury tax threshold, so expect to see a few salary dumps in the coming days as Adam leads the group.

Nats had the upper Hand; Mets may pivot to familiar lefty now

New York Yankees, Justin Wilson

The New York Mets missed out on the Brad Hand sweepstakes on Sunday, as the left-handed reliever, who the team coveted for months after the Cleveland Indians put him on outright waivers last year, decided to commit his immediate future to the Washington Nationals.

Presumably, Hand prioritized the chance to close games and re-build his value with an eye on the fall, as he will hit the market again after the 2021 season. The Mets, with Edwin Diaz on the roster, couldn’t promise saves to Hand, as good as he is.

The 30-year-old bullpen ace had a 2.05 ERA and a 1.37 FIP in 22.0 frames last season, with a phenomenal 33.7 K% and a minuscule 4.7 BB%. His fastball velocity, however, is trending in the wrong direction, and the Mets decided not to further pursue him given that the Nats secured him at a $10.5 million salary for 2021.

The Mets’ offer to hand was competitive

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman explained that the Mets offer to Brad Hand “was said to be right in the ballpark where Hand signed. Don’t know exactly what made the difference but he does live in the West Palm area, where Nats train.”

Now, the Mets can pivot to a familiar face in their search for a left-handed arm to fill out the bullpen. According to Heyman, they could now target Justin Wilson after swinging and missing on Hand.

“Mets may consider lefty Justin Wilson now. Wilson spent the last two years in Queens, and they like him. For now Mets are righty heavy in pen,” Heyman wrote.

Wilson, 33, has a career 3.27 ERA and a 3.34 FIP in 429 1/3 innings. He has been a good, reliable bullpen arm for years, and was great with the Mets in 2019 (2.54 ERA, 3.91 FIP) and 2020 (3.66 ERA, 3.04 FIP.)

Now that the pricey relievers are flying off the market, teams may now focus on arms like Wilson to fill out their bullpens.

New York Yankees News: Clint Frazier is rated as a top 10 outfielder

New York Yankees, Clint Frazier

The New York Yankees have a history of having great outfielders, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson, Bernie Williams, and Paul O’Neill, to name a few. Now MLB Network has named Clint Frazier one of the top 10 outfielders in baseball. He came in at number 9 in The Shredder report.

The Shredder rating uses Statcast metrics and other statistics such as WAR and WRC+. Because last season was shortened, the report dug back three seasons, making Frazier’s placement on the list even more surprising. Last year he was the most improved Yankee player and one of the most improved players in all of baseball. He was so improved that the mostly minor league player got his permanent spot in the Yankee lineup, where he will be for the 2021 season as well.

The New York Yankees may still have a decision or two to decide the Yankees won’t have to make is whether to put Clint Frazier on the trading block. He has lost that status and now appears to be a huge part of the Yankees from now on for years to come. Twenty-one games into the shorted season, Frazier was called up from Scranton, and to put it plainly, he paved his path to Yankees Stardom. He hit .267 with eight home runs and turned into a Gold Glove-like defenseman. He went from a -6 in defensive runs saved in 2019 to a +4 DRS in 2020.

A player’s Revised Zone Rating (RZR) is one way to measure how they do with easy plays as well as difficult ones. In 2019, Frazier had 45 balls hit into his “zone,” and he only made plays on 35 of them. That manifested in an RZR of .778, which scores between “below-average” and “poor.” This year, Frazier saw 29 batted balls in his “zone” and he made plays on all of them. While it would be silly to expect him to maintain this 1.000 RZR for an entire year (remember, this was only a 28-game sample size), there are indicators that this performance is here to stay.

The New York Yankees always knew that his quick swing and ability to hit both for contact and power highlighted his talent. But, for Frazier, his poor play in the field has dogged him throughout his career. His maturity was also a factor. This season a new 26-year-old, more mature Frazier, showed up at summer camp. But even that didn’t help as he was to start the season at the alternate site. Due to need, the Yankees called him up on August 12th. In his first game, he went 3 for 4 with a monster home run. Frazier continued to play like a star with much-improved field play, making diving catch after diving catch. Late in the month, manager Aaron Boone rewarded him a permanent place in the lineup.

Frazier continued his excellent play into the postseason, going 2 for 7 with a .286 batting average and a 1.000 OPS, and a homer to his name. Those two months of play has cemented him as a part of future Yankee teams and a player too talented to use in the trade market. With last season’s nomination for a Gold Glove and now listed as a top 10 outfield, it appears that his future with the Yankees is cemented. With well over 100 outfielders in MLB, today to be named in the top 10 is quite an honor.