So far this offseason, the Yankees have worked to fill some of their empty rotation slots, and agreed to terms with Brett Gardner. They still need at least one more starting pitcher, in addition to infield help. The bullpen is another area where they need to focus. With both David Robertson and Zach Britton hitting the free agency market, the bullpen will take a hit if they don’t add another quality reliever. Could Adam Ottavino be a good fit?
Ottavino, 33, came up as a starting pitcher in the Cardinals system, but he’s spent the majority of his career working out of the Rockies’ bullpen. The huge right-hander profiles as exactly the kind of pitcher that the Yankees love given his high strikeout numbers (12.98 K/9) and ability to touch the mid-90s with his fastball. Ottavino’s also known for his nasty slider.
His performance has been up and down over the past few years. Ottavino hit a low point in 2017 when he finished the season with a 5.06 ERA (5.16 FIP) and 6.58 BB/9 through 53.1 innings. The only thing he really had going for him was his strikeouts. Sounds Dellin Betances-esque. As awful as that was, he turned around and put up the best numbers of his career in 2018. He racked up 112 strikeouts and was worth 2.0 fWAR. His walk rate dropped to a more palatable 4.17 BB/9, though that still isn’t what you want.
Ottavino also comes with injury concerns. Back in 2015, he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He missed about 14 months, but came back and finished up 2016 on a strong note. Part of his troubles in 2017 involved shoulder inflammation that landed him on the disabled list. That shoulder issue is likely somewhat to blame for his rocky year. He also spent time in 2018 on the DL with an oblique strain.
The Yankees have been in touch with Ottavino, along with most of the other top free agent relievers available. Like Patrick Corbin, Ottavino is a New York native who grew up a Yankees fan. Obviously, money talks and none of this means much when it comes to making a deal. If the Bombers do hope to sign him, they may face stiff competition as the Red Sox and Mets are among the other teams interested in him.
As far as a possible contract goes, the folks at MLB Trade Rumors expect him to land a deal in the three-year, $30 million range. That could make Ottavino slightly cheaper than some of the other top relievers available. At the end of the day, though, Andrew Miller, D-Rob, Ottavino, and Britton all seem fairly interchangeable (sorry, Kunj). The Yankees just need to make sure that they land one of these arms to be in good shape.
Do you think the Bombers should target Ottavino, or would you prefer to see them reunite with one of the former Yankees available?