Braves Acquire Lucas Luetge From Yankees

The Braves announced they’ve acquired relievers Lucas Luetge from the Yankees. Minor leaguers Caleb Durbin and Indigo Diaz are headed back in return. To clear a spot on their 40-man roster, Atlanta designated first baseman Lewin Diaz for assignment.

New York surprisingly designated Luetge for assignment last Wednesday. That opened a one-week window for them to trade him or place him on waivers, but the former outcome always seemed likelier. The veteran southpaw has been a productive piece of the New York bullpen over the past two years, so it’s no surprise to see a team part with some minor league talent to keep him off waivers.

Luetge, 35, pitched two seasons to the Bronx after signing a minor league deal during the 2020-21 offseason. Over his time in pinstripes, he put together a 2.71 ERA through 129 2/3 frames. That included a sub-3.00 mark in both years, with Luetge topping 55 innings in each season. His 2022 campaign saw him put together a 2.67 mark across 57 1/3 frames, striking out a solid 23.9% of opponents against a better than average 6.8% walk rate.

The veteran has held left-handed opponents to a .229/.281/.324 line in 185 plate appearances since joining the Yankees. Righties have a .268/.320/.395 slash that’s better but not overwhelming, meaning Luetge doesn’t have to be leveraged solely against same-handed hitters. He doesn’t throw hard but he’s been excellent at staying off barrels. Only 23.5% of batted balls against him this past season were hit hard, per Statcast; that’s the lowest rate of any qualified pitcher in the game.

Luetge has between four and five years of major league service. He’s arbitration-eligible for the next two seasons, with MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projecting a $1.7MM salary in 2023. He’ll add a third southpaw to what should be a very strong Atlanta relief corps, with AJ Minter and Dylan Lee on hand for higher-leverage work.

The acquisition bumps Lewin Díaz off the 40-man roster and back into DFA limbo. That’s familiar territory for the 26-year-old first baseman, who has changed organizations four times this winter. He’s gone from the Marlins to the Pirates to the Orioles via waivers, and Atlanta just purchased his contract from Baltimore last week.

The Braves will now have a week to deal Díaz or try to pass him through waivers, so it’s possible he changes teams again in the coming days. A left-handed hitter, he’s a .181/.227/.340 hitter through 112 MLB games. Díaz has a more impressive .250/.325/.504 mark in just under 700 Triple-A plate appearances, though. He’s also regarded as a plus defender at first base, with public defensive metrics very bullish on his early-career work at the position. That’s led to a decent amount of interest around the league, though Díaz hasn’t yet stuck on a 40-man roster very long this winter.

As for the Yankees, they’ll bring in some minor league talent. Indigo Diaz was a 27th round pick in the 2019 draft. He entered the 2022 campaign as the #21 prospect in the Atlanta system, according to Baseball America. The 24-year-old spent the whole season at Double-A Mississippi, posting a 3.08 ERA through 49 2/3 innings of relief. The 6’5″ righty struck out nearly 30% of opposing hitters but walked batters at a huge 14.6% clip. Diaz went unselected in this offseason’s Rule 5 draft and adds some non-roster bullpen depth to the upper minors in New York.

Durbin went in the 14th round in the 2021 draft. He split this past season between two A-ball levels, hitting .241/.352/.372 across 450 plate appearances with matching 10.9% strikeout and walk rates. A right-handed hitter, Durbin split his time between second, third base and shortstop. He turns 23 in February and won’t be eligible for the Rule 5 draft until after the 2024 campaign.

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