Garrett Whitlock didn’t relish in the irony, and if he felt it, refused to give himself away. This, he said, was merely a coincidence.
But it must have been a pretty enjoyable one.
Whitlock, the Red Sox right-hander who burst onto the scene last year with a 1.96 ERA, was sitting in Yankee Stadium’s media room behind a podium on Sunday afternoon, Boston manager Alex Cora to his right, president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom to his left and a host of teammates sitting in the back of the room. They were there because he had just inked a four-year extension for $18.75 million guaranteed, with club options for 2027 and 2028 in addition to escalators that could increase the total to $44.5 million over six seasons.
The irony was because Whitlock so easily could have been pitching for the team that resides down the hall. The Yankees drafted Whitlock in 2017, and left him unprotected in the 2020 Rule 5 draft following Tommy John surgery in 2019. Enter Boston.
“This is a great day,” Bloom said.
No one will say the Yankees necessarily need another bullpen arm, but it would be nice to have Whitlock, who has established himself as a beloved member of the Red Sox organization over the past year, recording a 1.96 ERA over 73 ¹/₃ innings in 2021. The Red Sox don’t see the bullpen as a ceiling for the 25-year-old either.
Bloom said they began discussing an extension prior to the lockout, with talks ramping up over the past month before culminating in a deal on Friday. Later that day, Whitlock recorded a blown save, giving up a run in the eighth inning in a game the Yankees later won, 6-5.
In this chapter of the rivalry, though, it looks like Boston has the last laugh.
“You all know the talent that Garrett has that’s been on display from Day 1 in Fort Myers last year, all the way up through October,” Bloom said. “I think a lot of you also know the person that he is — and when you make this type of commitment, that’s just as important. He works hard. He competes. He’s a really good teammate. He’s humble. He wants to learn. He respects everyone.”
Whitlock harkened back to two years ago, when he was working two jobs trying to make ends meet during the throes of the pandemic. Cora brought up Boston’s team plane rides, where Whitlock is known to bring beer along for teammates.
“For me, I just want to have a servant’s heart,” Whitlock, a Birmingham, Ala. native, said. “That’s the biggest thing. I grew up and my dad, mom, drilled it in my head that it’s all about other people. For me, I want to serve people as much as I can.”
So you can see why the teammates in the back of the room felt it appropriate to applaud when the press conference finished.
And why the Yankees, whether they need another arm or not, will feel like they’ve missed out.