NEW YORK -- The Yankees cleared space to protect several of their promising prospects from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft on Friday, executing a flurry of roster moves that included designating right-hander Nathan Eovaldi for assignment and the unconditional release of infielder/outfielder Dustin Ackley.
Eovaldi was 9-8 with a 4.76 ERA in 24 games (21 starts) for the Yankees last season, but is expected to miss all of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August. Ackley's year was cut short by a season-ending right shoulder injury sustained in the May 29 game.
Also in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft, which will be held at the Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Md., on Dec. 8, the Yankees traded left-hander James Pazos to the Mariners in exchange for Minor League right-hander Zack Littell.
The 21-year-old Littell combined with Class A Clinton and Class A Advanced Bakersfield to go 13-6 with two complete games and a 2.66 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) in 2016, leading all Mariners farmhands with 156 strikeouts. He will be assigned to Class A Tampa.
Unprotected players of note in the Yankees' Top 30 include catcher Luis Torrens (No. 17) and outfielder Jake Cave (No. 24), the latter of whom was selected by the Reds in last year's Rule 5 Draft only to be offered back to New York. Other appealing Yankees farmhands left unprotected include right-hander Mark Montgomery and left-hander Tyler Webb.
Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons.
Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.