The arrangement will see Ottavino return to Queens for a third consecutive season just months after the right-hander declined a $6.75MM player option with the club. Earlier this week, Ottavino discussed his decision to decline that option during an appearance on the Foul Territory podcast. The 38-year-old veteran made clear that while he loved being part of the Mets organization, he had concerns at the time about the club’s future given their at-the-time uncertain managerial situation and rumors the club planned to take a step back during the 2024 campaign. That sort of situation wasn’t appealing to Ottavino, as he noted that he hopes to win a World Series before his career comes to a close.
Since Ottavino’s decision to test the open market, the club has stayed active at the lower levels of free agency and on the trade market. The club shored up its hitting corps by bringing in outfielders Harrison Bader and Tyrone Taylor alongside infielder Joey Wendle, while the bullpen was bolstered by the addition of Jorge Lopez. The most impactful changes can be found in the starting staff, where the Mets have acquired Sean Manaea, Adrian Houser, and Luis Severino to join incumbent arms Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana as members of the rotation mix.
Those additions, along with the hiring of former Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza as manager, seem to have given Ottavino the confidence in New York’s chances in 2024 necessary for him to re-sign with the club. While the player option declined by the right-hander back in November came with a nominally larger guarantee, it’s important to note that Ottavino previously told Sherman that $4MM of his $6.75MM salary would have been deferred. This deal includes no such deferred money, meaning that today’s deal actually improves upon the previously-declined option in terms of present value.
The veteran figures to provide a stabilizing force in the Mets’ bullpen for the 2024 campaign behind star closer Edwin Diaz, where he’ll likely share set-up duties with the likes of Brooks Raley and Drew Smith. It’s a role Ottavino is familiar with, as the righty has notched 179 holds throughout his 13-year tenure in the majors on top of his 45 career saves. Since establishing himself as a fixture of the Rockies’ bullpen back in 2012, Ottavino has compiled a strong 3.25 ERA and 3.52 FIP across 659 appearances with Colorado, Boston, and both New York clubs. By measure of ERA+, the veteran has never posted a campaign below league average during a 162-game season, with the lone blemish on that resume being 18 1/3 innings of 5.89 ERA ball during the shortened 2020 campaign.
That kind of stable production figures to be a major boost for the Mets’ relief corps, which struggled badly down the stretch after parting ways with closer David Robertson at the trade deadline last summer. Following the deadline, Mets relievers struggled to a 5.19 ERA that was bottom-six in the majors during that timeframe. Ottavino, by contrast, was a bright spot in the club’s bullpen down the stretch with a 2.55 ERA and a 28.9% strikeout rate in 19 appearances during which he picked up six saves. Given that strong performance, it’s hardly a surprise that the club landed upon a reunion with the veteran as a resolution to their search for additional bullpen help. Going forward, it’s possible the club could look to make an addition at third base or DH, though president of baseball operations David Stearns has made clear that the club doesn’t want to take opportunities away from young players like Brett Baty and Mark Vientos with external additions.
The deal makes Ottavino the latest bullpen arm to come off the market in recent weeks. The right-hander joins the likes of David Robertson, Robert Stephenson, Aroldis Chapman, Hector Neris, and Matt Moore in signing a new deal shortly relief ace Josh Hader recently agreed to a five-year pact with the Astros earlier this month. Phil Maton, Ryne Stanek, and Ryan Brasier are among the best options remaining for clubs looking to strengthen their relief corps.