December 27: The deal has now been officially announced by the Mets.
December 20: The Mets and right-hander Adam Ottavino are in agreement on a contract to bring him back to Queens. It will be a two-year, $14.5MM deal with Ottavino having the ability to opt-out after the first year. The deal is pending a physical. Ottavino is represented by WME Baseball.
Ottavino, 37, has had some ups and downs in his career but has an overall track record of effective relief pitching going back a decade now. He debuted with the Cardinals back in 2010 but came to prominence with the Rockies over a seven-year stretch from 2012 to 2018. In that timeframe, he pitched in 361 games and logged 390 2/3 innings, posting a 3.41 ERA with a 27.6% strikeout rate, 10.1% walk rate and 46.1% ground ball rate. His strikeout rate ticked upward over his time in Colorado, getting as high as 36.2% in 2018, though there were some control issues, as he walked 16% of batters faced in 2017 and 11.7% in 2018.
He reached free agency and signed with the Yankees going into 2019, signing a three-year deal worth $27MM. The first year of that deal went very well as he posted a 1.90 ERA in the Bronx, though that ballooned to 5.89 in 2020. That was a small sample of 18 1/3 innings in the shortened season, but it was enough for the Yanks to move on, flipping him to the Red Sox in a salary dump trade. Ottavino then posted a 4.21 ERA for Boston in 2021, with his strikeout rate dipping to 25.7% and his walk rate coming in at 12.7%.
The Mets signed Ottavino to a modest one-year deal for 2022 worth $4MM plus incentives and were rewarded with an excellent bounceback campaign. The righty made 66 appearances out of the Mets’ bullpen in 2022, finishing the year with a 2.06 ERA, striking out 30.6% of batters faced while walking just 6.2% of them. He also got ground balls on 51.9% of balls in play while racking up three saves and 18 holds for the year. Based on that strong comeback campaign, MLBTR predicted Ottavino could secure himself a two-year, $14MM contract, which he has narrowly exceeded here.
The Mets were facing a huge bullpen exodus this offseason, with Ottavino, Edwin Díaz, Seth Lugo, Trevor Williams, Joely Rodríguez and Trevor May all reaching free agency a few weeks ago. They have since addressed that situation by re-signing Díaz, signing David Robertson, trading for Brooks Raley and now bringing Ottavino back into the fray as well.
In addition to those moves, the club has been extremely active in free agency to address other parts of the roster. The rotation also had a number of holes appear, with Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker all becoming free agents. Those three were replaced by signing Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga and José Quintana. The club also bolstered its position player mix by re-signing Brandon Nimmo and signing Omar Narváez.
The Mets already had one of the highest payrolls in the league in 2022 and those moves have shot them up to incredible new heights. Roster Resource has them at $344MM before even factoring in the Ottavino deal, with a competitive balance tax figure of $356MM. Since the Mets are second-time payors and are well beyond the fourth CBT threshold of $293MM, they are now paying a 90% tax on any further spending. Ottavino will add $7.25MM to that CBT figure, leading to an extra $6.525MM in taxes, meaning the club is effectively paying $13.775MM for Ottavino’s services in 2022.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported the Mets signing Ottavino and the two-year with opt-out structure (Twitter links). Jeff Passan of ESPN first had the dollar figures.