Garrett Whitlock was one of the steals of the season. The Red Sox signed the little-known Yankees right-hander in the Rule 5 draft, only to watch him blossom into one of their most dependable relievers.
Brian Cashman acknowledges his miss.
At the general managers’ meetings, Cashman told the Globe’s Alex Speier that Alex Cora would occasionally rib him about Whitlock. The Yankees’ GM didn’t see the humor. “I wasn’t laughing at those jokes,” he said.
In Cashman’s defense, Whitlock’s emergence came out of nowhere. He last pitched in Double A before undergoing Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2019 season, which caused him to miss all of the 2020 campaign. Since the minor league season canceled, Cashman and other general managers were going into the Rule 5 draft with less information than usual.
“I said, ‘Some teams are going to have some big-time mistakes,’” Cashman said. “And obviously, it turned out that it came back to bite us. He was rehabbing from Tommy John and the player that arrived Day One in spring training wasn’t the player that left us. It was just a completely different animal with a lot more juice on his velo … Boston obviously took advantage of it. And they wound up with a gem. So kudos to them and disappointment for us.”
Whitlock excelled in the Red Sox’ bullpen, posting a 1.96 ERA in 73.1 frames. His ability to pitch multiple innings made him supremely valuable, especially in the era of the opener, where managers issue calls to the pen with much more frequency.
Fittingly, Whitlock closed out the Yankees in the wild card game, ending their season in the process.
When the Red Sox hired Chaim Bloom from the Rays, they expected him to unearth baseball gems like Whitlock. Another team’s overlooked minor leaguer is another team’s lockdown late-inning arm.