Yankees and Adam Ottavino agree to three-year, $27 million deal

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 27: Adam Ottavino #0 of the Colorado Rockies pitches in the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on April 27, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 27: Adam Ottavino #0 of the Colorado Rockies pitches in the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on April 27, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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The Yankees added another elite reliever to their bullpen on Thursday, agreeing to a three year, $27 million deal with RHP and New York native Adam Ottavino.

I think it’s safe to say the Yankees bullpen heading into next season is the best in baseball and it’s really not even up for debate. You could’ve made that case even before the Ottavino signing right after the they re-signed Zach Britton earlier this month.

With Ottavino now in the fold, the Yankee pen should be the team’s greatest strength heading into 2019. That’s saying a lot when you consider the offense is already one of the most dangerous in the game and the starting rotation is much improved after the addition of James Paxton and the re-signing of J.A. Happ.

Ottavino joins an elite group of arms for Aaron Boone to call upon after he had a breakout season with the Rockies in 2018. He pitched to a 2.43 ERA with 112 K’s in 77.2 IP with a WHIP of 0.99 and an impressive 13.0 K’s per 9.

The 33-year old Ottavino is essentially replacing David Robertson after he recently signed a two year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. He’ll also take over as the elder statesman in the Yankees pen, but he’s a late bloomer who looks like he’s just entering his prime. Ottavino was the main setup man for Wade Davis last season with the Rockies, but with the Yankees, he’ll be one of many. That’s the beauty of the Yankees pen because they have four guys who could probably be closers on most teams and that’s not even including Chad Green and Jonathan Holder.

The rotation is still going to play a huge role if the Yanks want to go all the way in 2019, but with the bullpen they now have in place the starters don’t really need to pitch more than 5 or 6 innings. They’ll also be able to keep the back end of the pen fresh and won’t have to pitch guys on back to back days or for multiple innings very often. Dellin Betances and Britton still figure to be the primary setup men for Aroldis Chapman but if one of them needs a day off than Ottavino can certainly slide in and do just as good a job.

One of my biggest takeaways from today’s news is that the Yankees once again signed a reliever that the Red Sox were believed to have interest in. Boston is still going to be a tough team to dethrone atop the AL East in 2019 but the Yankees have certainly closed the gap with additions they’ve made this offseason. The Red Sox bullpen already lost Joe Kelly to the Dodgers this offseason and their All-Star Craig Kimbrel is still on the free agent market.

Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see how things play out once the season starts, but the Yankees have a pretty big edge over Boston when it comes to the bullpens. That was the same case heading into their ALDS matchup this past October, but the Yankees starters didn’t really give their pen a chance to hold down any leads in the later innings. Hopefully, next time around Aaron Boone will do a better job deploying his pen by going to them early and often once the starters get into any trouble.

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If there are any concerns with Ottavino it’s his propensity for wild pitches. He’s combined for 15 over the past two seasons and had a game in 2017 where he had four in two innings which allowed five runs to score. His new catcher Gary Sanchez already struggles with passed balls and a lot of that has to do with how nasty the Yankees pen can be at times. It’s probably the hardest pen in baseball to catch every day and now it’s only going to get harder with the addition of Ottavino and his frisbee-like slider.

As hard as Ottavino may be to catch he’s even harder to hit, as he held hitters to a .158 BA in 2018. Righties only hit .142 with a .236 SLG%. against him and he held lefties to a .179 BA and a .241 SLG%. Ottavino is extremely difficult to square up because everything he throws has incredible movement. His two-seam fastball is one of the best in the game and his slider might be as deadly a put-away pitch as Dellin Betances curveball.

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Hitters are going to have a ton of ugly swings facing these Yankee relievers next season and they’re going to be hard pressed to do any sort of damage against this dominant group. If the offense and the rotation can do their jobs and give the bullpen a lead to pitch with it should be game over for the opposition in the later innings.