The New York Yankees bullpen needs some attention this winter. Adding Adam Ottavino would boost an already elite relief corps.
Friends, Romans, New York Yankees fans, lend me your ears! I have a question I must present to the masses, and fast.
Why aren’t we talking about Adam Ottavino this offseason?
It’s a random query, sure, but hear me out. There I was on the A train, a slice of Ray’s Original in one hand, random pizzeria grape drink in the other, plus some dirty water dogs in my backpack for a snack later, and it dawned on me. Adam Ottavino and the Yankees go together like pastrami on rye and matzoh ball soup at Katz’s Deli; hot dogs and fries at Nathan’s; the Long Island Railroad and delays.
OK, now that I’m done sounding like the worst kind of New Yorker, let’s get serious. The Yankees aren’t done this offseason, and their bullpen is an area needing some attention. Adding Ottavino wouldn’t make or break the offseason at all, but he’d certainly add to the Yankees’ greatest strength.
Brian Cashman needs to sign Ottavino, the sooner the better.
The casual New York fan does not know Adam Ottavino from a pint at McSorley’s. The 33-year-old right-hander debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2010, and the Colorado Rockies claimed him off waivers in 2012.
Since then, Ottavino has become a household name in the Rocky Mountain State. His devastating slider has his K/9 at 10.11 for his career, and he posted a career-high mark of 12.98 in 2018.
Speaking of 2018, Ottavino put himself on the national stage last season. He went 6-4 with a 2.43 ERA in an eye-popping 75 appearances out of the ‘pen. Ottavino also stranded 76.3 percent of baserunners, per FanGraphs, and struck out a career-best 112 hitters in 77.2 innings. Ottavino also notched six saves.
Now, teams are lining up to meet with him. At this past week’s MLB Winter Meetings, he proved to be quite popular. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets as being interested, along with the Chicago White Sox.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 12, 2018
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 13, 2018
However, it was Joel Sherman of The New York Post who dropped the most interesting Ottavino tidbit of the week.
Heard Cashman met with Adam Ottavino’s rep tonight. Still no firm offers exchanged. But clear Ottavino is high on #Yankees wish list
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 12, 2018
The team is clearly interested in Adam Ottavino, and it’s time for Brian Cashman to pull the trigger.
NYC bullpen traffic
As great a fit Adam Ottavino would be in New York, there are some concerns. Some of these concerns are typical of any team. He had Tommy John surgery in 2015. His great 2018 came after a season in which he posted a 5.06 ERA.
More importantly, though, the Yankees don’t have a clear role for him out of their bullpen.
Look at it this way. Aroldis Chapman, despite two straight years of injury woes, is still an elite closer. Dellin Betances is an All-Star setup man. Barring a change in philosophy from manager Aaron Boone and pitching coach Larry Rothschild, neither man will change roles.
That leaves Ottavino, at least in this circumstance, as the seventh inning guy. That’s not a terrible role by any means, but also remember New York has guys like Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle on the roster.
There is also David Robertson to consider. He too is a 33-year-old reliever, and he posted a 3.23 ERA in 69 appearances last season. The catch is, unlike Ottavino, Robertson is also a proven closer. If a team offers him that role and the right amount of money to go with it, he won’t turn it down.
Similarly, Ottavino is a setup man who, if given the chance, could probably be a solid closer. His age may work against him, but he proved last year he’s worth a multi-year deal.
A match made in New York heaven
As much as I love and appreciate David Robertson for all he’s done in pinstripes, it’s time to move on. He can still pitch, but his heavy combination of fastball-cutter has become predictable.
Adam Ottavino, however, is not someone well-known to AL East hitters. This is someone who has made a career out of throwing his slider 44.7 percent of the time, and the results speak for themselves.
Not only that, but Ottavino is actually from New York. He was born in Manhattan. He grew up in Brooklyn, playing his high school ball at Berkeley Carroll in Park Slope before going to college at Northeastern. The Yankees bringing him aboard would be similar to when Cashman signed Queens native Steve Karsay in 2002, but hopefully with better results.
And just think of the marketing opportunities. Ottavino would be literally living the dream of so many young New Yorkers, growing up to play ball for the Yankees. Maybe he could do a commercial giving tourists directions for the subway or where to get the best pizza.
This is a match made in New York heaven. Ottavino’s 43.6 percent ground ball rate, a boon in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, is only an added bonus.
The good news for the Yankees, as I touched on earlier, is that missing out on Adam Ottavino wouldn’t mean the offseason is ruined. The team won 100 games with David Robertson coming out of the bullpen last season. Keeping him in favor of signing Ottavino would be a fine decision.
But if Cashman opts to let Robertson walk and still doesn’t sign Ottavino, count on me going full Frank Costanza. This isn’t Jay Buhner territory, but it’d still be a prime example of the Yankees missing out on a great thing.
Adam Ottavino is a native New Yorker. He knows the city and what her fans expect. The man was born to be a New York Yankee.
Now all Cashman has to do is tell him the same thing and give him a contract.