The Yankees’ trade of Adam Ottavino to Boston was, no matter how you slice it, a salary dump. The Bombers gave Boston $850,000 and minor-league RHP Frank German to take on most of Ottavino’s remaining deal, which will cost the Sox just over $10 million in real dollars and about $8.15 million in luxury tax hit.
Not the first time the Yankees have made a trade like this, nor is it as “rare” in baseball as you may think, given how often it seems to happen in the NBA. Here’s a look at three recent instances of a deal like Ottavino’s, including the one the Yankees made a few years back:
Dec. 15, 2019: Zack Cozart moves up the Cali coast
In December 2017, the Angels signed Zack Cozart to a three-year, $38 million deal, with the idea of moving the 2017 All-Star shortstop to third base to make a super infield with stalwart Andrelton Simmons and also newly-acquired Ian Kinsler.
Instead, Cozart battled injuries and ineffectiveness, playing just 96 games and hitting .190 over two years. Heading into 2020, Los Angeles simply wanted his $12.67 million off the books. So, on Dec. 10, 2019, almost two years to the day they signed Cozart, the Halos dealt him to San Francisco – who themselves had been in luxury tax trouble in recent years – for a PTBNL, throwing in prospect Will Wilson to sweeten the pot.
Wilson, a middle infielder, was the Angels’ first-round pick (No. 15 overall) in 2019 and hit .275 in 46 games at Rookie-level Orem, so he was a legit prospect. His next game will be one more than Cozart played in the organization, though, as he was simply released in January and spent 2020 out of baseball, despite still being the highest-paid Giant in 2020.
RHP Garrett Williams, the PTBNL San Francisco sent to Los Angeles, spent 2019 at Double-A, going 7-8 with a 3.60 ERA in 110 innings.
Dec. 12, 2017: Chase Headley heads back home
The Yankees were seemingly connected to Headley for years before they acquired him from the Padres in July 2014, and kept him with a new four-year deal that offseason. He hit .262 over three-plus seasons in New York, but was minimized by the acquisition of Todd Frazier in late-2017, and the Yankees wanted to get his $13 million off the books for 2018.
So, on Dec. 12, 2017, the Yankees shipped Headley back to San Diego along with RHP Bryan Mitchell and cash for outfielder Jabari Blash. Mitchell was a fringe 40-man roster player who was out of options after 91 1/3 pedestrian innings over four seasons, but San Diego looked to re-work him as a rotation option.
Here’s what happened: Headley hit .115 in 27 games before being released in May and effectively ending his career, while Mitchell had a 5.42 ERA in 73 innings while missing two months with an elbow impingement. He was designated for assignment at the end of Spring Training 2019, spent that year in the Padres’ system (posting an 8.68 in 57 innings), and was at the White Sox’s alternate site in 2020 before signing a minor-league deal with Philly this offseason.
As for Blash? He was dealt to the Angels for cash the following spring, hit .103 in 24 games, and then spent the last two seasons in Japan.
June 20, 2015: Arroyo runs through it
Bronson Arroyo had Tommy John surgery in July 2014, and a year later, with no return date in sight, the D-Backs were looking to do whatever they could to clear his remaining salary – roughly $9 million based on a prorated $9.5 million salary in 2015, plus a $4.5 million option buyout – off their books.
So, in June, they found a team willing to basically eat the salary: Atlanta, who dealt infielder Phil Gosselin to Arizona for Arroyo and RHP Touki Toussaint, the D-Backs’ first-round pick a year prior who wasn’t eligible to be dealt until 6/20/2015 – exactly one year after he signed.
Arroyo ended up going to the Dodgers in a three-team, 12-player deal a month later and only made it back to the bigs in 2017 for 71 innings with the Reds, while Gosselin spent the rest of 2015 and 2016 as a utility player in Arizona and has since been with five other organizations, including another quick stint with the Braves organization in 2018.
Toussaint made his MLB debut in August 2018 and spent most of 2019 and 2020 in the majors, posting a 5.97 ERA in 95 innings.
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