Being that there’s no shortage of decent relief pitching in this year’s free agent class, one wonders if boss Andrew Friedman will abandon his typical of philosophy from building his bullpen from within and dip into resources from the outside. While there’s still some speculation that the Dodgers will once again land below the Luxury Tax threshold next season, there still may be some room under the cap to land a quality fireman.
Players such as Craig Kimbrel, David Robertson and Jeurys Familia are several of the headliners in this winter’s market, but there are still a slew of bullpen arms which could be had at more economical prices. Normally, the relief pitching market stays strong throughout the winter, as bullpens are sometimes the last area of the team that management addresses. This winter will probably be no exception.
One pitcher in particular, 33-year-old righty Adam Ottavino, caught my eye not long after the free agent class was announced in early November. If his salary demands stay on the low side, he could potentially end up being one of the steals of the offseason.
Originally a first-round draft choice by the Cardinals in the 2006 draft, Ottavino made a name for himself in the Colorado bullpen, logging 360 appearances and throwing more than 390 innings over his seven-year tenure. The New York City native underwent Tommy John surgery early in 2015, but has been relatively injury-free since, aside from mild shoulder inflammation during his 2017 campaign.
Last season, he was one of the most reliable arms in the Rockies’ relief crew, making a whopping 75 appearances and tossing 77-2/3 innings with a .154 BAA, a 2.74 FIP and a 0.991 WHIP. His 13.0 K/9 in 2018 was far and away a career-high.
Ottavino’s 2.6 rWAR in 2018 was the best among all the free agent relief pitchers on the current free agent market.
Ottavino can still throw relatively hard, as he has the ability to gear back and crank his heater to 95 MPH. Deserting the traditional four-seam in recent years, he was known for just two-pitches prior to last season—a sinker and a slider, which both have evolved into plus offerings. But it was the development of his cutter last spring that set him apart for 2018. In a recent interview on MLB Now, he provided a bit of insight on the cutter, mainly crediting the use of film and technology:
“You can look at the pitch tracking devices, the flight dynamics of your pitch, see how they’re spinning and how much they’re spinning, and then you can go look at it with a really high speed camera and see how you are accomplishing that goal and what you’re doing it right and what you’re doing it wrong,” he explained. “I think it takes a person to kind of look in the mirror a little bit and look at their stats and see where there’s room for improvement and this is just a way to get to that end.”
In theory, Ottavino could be one of the last free agent relievers standing, as this winter’s market appears to be evolving slowly thus far. Tim Dierkes of MLBTR has Ottavino pegged at garnering a contract in the three-year/$30 million range, but if the righty could be had for two years at a rate shy of the $10 million mark, Friedman could be tempted to pull the trigger.