Buster Olney of ESPN (subscription required) recently discussed the possibility of trading away reliever Adam Ottavino to shed salary. If true, the SF Giants should pick up the phone.
Olney speculates that the Yankees are both interested in upgrading the rotation while staying below the $210 competitive balance tax (CBT). Given that the SF Giants are seemingly in a better financial position than many teams, this might be an opportunity for them to get involved.
The right-handed reliever is owed $9 million against the CBT in 2021 in the final year of a three-year, $27 million contract signed back in January of 2019. Since inking that deal, Ottavino has registered a 2.76 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 12.0 K/9, and a 2.31 SO/W ratio with 17 saves across 84.2 frames.
However, the 35-year-old struggled to the tune of a 5.89 ERA in 18.1 innings in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season. That said, this came with a 3.52 FIP, so it is entirely possible that Ottavino ran into some bad luck in a weird year.
Currently, the Yankees have committed $205.1 million to the 2021 payroll, so they only have $4.9 million in flexibility. That is not a lot of room to upgrade the roster with free agency still in full swing and the trade deadline about six months away.
The Yankees’ rotation features Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, and Domingo German. There are definite workload management and injury risks with Kluber and Severino, whereas Montgomery, Garcia, and German have inconsistent track records or availability concerns.
They likely still need to add multiple depth arms but have very little payroll remaining to do so. They could do themselves a lot of favors by finding any way to shed salary. I know that Yankees fans would be eager to get Giancarlo Stanton‘s 13-year, $325 million contract off of the books, but that seems very unlikely.
However, Ottavino’s contract is one that can be moved relatively easily and would give the Yankees a little more breathing room.
Ever since the SF Giants acquired Will Wilson and Zack Cozart from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for lefty prospect Garret Williams, fans have been looking to make another move like this one. The Giants took on the remainder of Cozart’s three-year, $38 million contract and, in essence, bought a prospect in Wilson.
Could they swing a similar move with the Yankees? The Yankees appear to be motivated to shed salary like the Angels were last winter, and Olney’s speculation only adds fuel to the fire. Let’s assume that the Giants would take on the remainder of Ottavino’s contract:
The Giants would receive both Adam Ottavino and outfield prospect Estevan Florial, whereas the Yankees receive salary relief and an intriguing, hard-throwing prospect in Melvin Adon to replace Ottavino.
For years, Florial has been regarded as one of the best prospects in the Yankees farm system. However, his prospect status has dimmed in recent years as he has battled injuries and struggled at the lower levels.
In five minor league seasons, the left-handed bat has slashed .273/.353/.437 with 73 doubles, 42 home runs, and 213 RBI. This comes with a solid 10.6 percent walk rate, but a concerning 28.2 percent strikeout rate. Surprisingly, Florial did get a cup of coffee with the Yankees in 2020 where he recorded one hit in three at-bats.
With that being said, the center field prospect is just 23-years-old and there is plenty of development left for him to realize. He may not hit for a lot of power, but he has above-average speed and continues to make good adjustments to his swing.
In New York, the 23-year-old is blocked on the major league roster by the likes of Stanton, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Clint Frazier. There is no obvious path for him in the near term, and the Yankees will need to make a move on him soon given that his major league clock has begun.
If the Yankees remain committed to staying under the CBT while still trying to bolster the roster, they will need to move some money. The Giants have proven that the ownership group is willing to eat a contract if it nets a good prospect in return. Ottavino is one of the more sensible contracts to move, so the Yankees and Giants should work out a move that would be mutually beneficial.