In a surprising move, the Yankees announced Tuesday that they’ve optioned lefty Jordan Montgomery to the team’s alternate site in Scranton. The Yanks also selected the contracts of non-roster veterans Luis Avilan, Chris Iannetta and David Hale.
New York also announced that non-roster righty Dan Otero has been placed on the restricted list. Meanwhile, each of Matt Duffy, Estevan Florial, Deivi Garcia, Zack Granite, Erik Kratz, Brooks Kriske, Tyler Lyons, Nick Nelson, Clarke Schmidt, Nick Tropeano, Miguel Yajure and Tony Zych has been reassigned to the team’s alternate site.
Montgomery, 27, seemed like a lock for a rotation spot to begin the season. It seems likely that he’ll be called back to the big leagues in short order, but it seems that the Yankees will roll out Gerrit Cole, James Paxton and a either Mike King or a bullpen game in their first three contests. Manager Aaron Boone indicated as much today an added that J.A. Happ is expected to start the fourth game (Twitter link via WFAN’s Sweeny Murti), so Montgomery may not join the club until its second trip through the rotation. An off-day should allow Cole to start the team’s fifth game.
Avilan, 31, has a strong big league track record but stumbled to a 5.06 ERA and 4.96 FIP in 32 frames with the Mets last year. That forced him to settle for a minor league deal over the winter, but Avilan has a career 3.28 ERA and 3.41 FIP with averages of 8.1 strikeouts, 3.5 walks and 0.5 home runs per nine innings pitched. He’s held opposing lefties to a putrid .203/.280/.283 slash since his 2012 MLB debut and has held righties in check reasonably well: .259/.340/.374.
The 37-year-old Iannetta gives the Yankees a third catcher behind Gary Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka early in the season when rosters are expanded to 30 players. The 14-year veteran hasn’t hit particularly well in recent seasons but has a long track record of quality on-base percentages thanks to a gaudy 13.5 percent walk rate in his career. Iannetta posted a .254/.354/.511 slash in 316 plate appearances as recently as 2017, but his two-year reunion with his original club, the Rockies, didn’t go well; in 524 plate appearances over the past two seasons in Colorado, Iannetta hit .223/.335/.395 (85 OPS+, 80 wRC+).
Hale’s boomerang act with the Yankees is well-documented by this point. He’s signed a ridiculous five minor league contracts with the Yankees since Jan. 2018 and, despite being jettisoned from the roster so many times, fared quite well. Hale has racked up 48 1/3 innings across his scattered stints in the Bronx and, amid constant roster uncertainty, pitched to a strong 2.98 ERA with a 29-to-8 K/BB ratio. He’s plenty capable of working in multi-inning stints, which should prove particularly valuable early in the year as the club both manages workloads and apparently tinkers with the occasional opener/bullpen game.