At the Winter Meetings, Jon Morosi of MLB Network spoke to Kelsey Wingert of FoxSports in regards to all the rumors surrounding the Braves this off-season. In which, Morosi says that if he were the Braves general manager the first thing he would want to do is find someone who can fill the closer’s role.
"I'd want to get a closer first."
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) December 12, 2018
Craig Kimbrel no longer feels like a realistic option. He’s reportedly looking for a six-year deal in the nine-figure range, something the Braves can’t even come close to affording. Stay calm Braves’ fans, there are still a host of free agents waiting to be signed, none more intriguing than Adam Ottavino, formerly of the Colorado Rockies.
You may have heard his name recently in the news. Yeah, the guy who said he could strike out Babe Ruth every time he faced him if Ruth played in today’s game. That may not be precisely accurate, but it’s easy to see why Ottavino can make such a statement with the utmost confidence.
Standing at 6’5″, Ottavino is a power-arm that can set you up with his mid-90s sinking fastball and switch it up by throwing straight frisbees over the plate. Take a look at some of these sliders, and more importantly, the reaction from the batters.
This is Adam Ottavino's slider.
It might not make the semi-finals.
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) December 12, 2018
As a massive follower of Adam Ottavino since practicing with him in High School, I'm stoked to see him tonight.
Oh and that his slider looks like this. pic.twitter.com/huVDhcg0LM
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) October 3, 2018
I mean that’s a straight up unhittable pitch when it’s working, and it is what has made Ottavino one of the most coveted free agent relievers on the market.
His career stats aren’t going to woo anybody. He’s been in the league for seven complete seasons, all with Colorado as a relief pitcher, and not all of them have gone as planned. As recently as 2017, Ottavino appeared in 63 games and posted a 5.06 ERA. But it’s a what have you done for me lately world that we live in, and Ottavino might have been the best reliever out of the pen in 2018.
Mike Petriello of MLB.com does a wonderful job breaking down why Ottavino will be in such high demand this offseason. In it, he refers to a Statcast™ quality-of-contact metric called “Expected wOBA”. By that measure, Ottavino graded out as the third-best relief pitcher in all of baseball behind Edwin Diaz of the Mariners and Blake Treinen of the Athletics and just ahead of the Josh Hader for the Brewers.
And when you compare his numbers last year to anybody in this free agent class, he sticks out like a sore thumb. He appeared in a ridiculous 75 games last year, posting a strikeout rate of 36% and a career-high 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings. He also put up the highest WAR rate among free agent relievers and lowest ERA.
Not to mention, he did this all of this while playing half of his games at Coors Field. Not that it really mattered. Ottavino’s numbers were actually considerably better at home than they were on the road. Perhaps that’s because when he’s in the strike zone, there’s rarely solid contact.
Over his seven-year career, Ottavino has never been handed the closer’s role. He saved six games last year and has a career-high of seven saves. That might be the Braves most attractive selling point. In Atlanta, there is no doubt he will have the opportunity to take over the full-time gig as closer. Arodys Vizcaino will be back with the team in 2019, but there’s no telling what to expect from him after an injury late last season. He also may be better served as a set-up man anyways.
Of course, money is always going to be an issue when talking about quality free agents and the Braves. Ottavino is set to receive quite a healthy contract, possibly the second-largest deal among relievers behind only Craig Kimbrel.
With that said, the market for outfielders has shrunk considerably after the signings of Andrew McCutchen and Michael Brantley. The starting pitcher’s market was never very appealing. With the Braves still holding onto some money, spending it on a top-notch reliever may be the best way to go in free agency.