6:11pm: Saunders notes that the Rockies did have discussions with Ottavino earlier in the offseason, but there’s “nothing imminent” now. Meanwhile, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News confirms the Rangers have had interest in Ottavino and Britton, though he doesn’t sense they’re “aggressively pursuing” either reliever.
3:22pm: The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders tweets that, contrary to a prior report, the Rockies are “not in the mix” for Ottavino. The team already shelled out three-year deals for Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, and Mike Dunn last offseason, so it didn’t figure to have much remaining in the bank for another high-AAV reliever.
2:53pm: The Yankees “remain in talks” with relievers Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton, tweets Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, who adds that it’s “not out of the question” the club could bring both players aboard. Jon Heyman of Fancred hears similarly, tweeting that the club is “working” on the bullpen while waiting to hear back from Manny Machado.
In a separate tweet, Heyman notes that the Rangers are also in the mix for top free-agent relievers and could be a serious contender for the services of Ottavino and Britton.
The stopper-insatiable Yanks, who last year rode a series of game-shorteners to their first 100-win season since 2009, and already boast three of the league’s best in Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Chad Green, seem hungry for more. Britton, acquired mid-season by New York from Baltimore last year, is reportedly seeking a four-year deal, which seems a bit rich for a 31-year-old on the heels of two injury shortened seasons.
Britton’s grounder-heavy ways seem the last vestige from his 2014-16 peak with Baltimore, as the lefty induced a staggering 77.8% ground balls in his late-season stint with the Bombers. His bat-missing abilities, though, have showed little signs of life, with the former Oriole regressing to near his 7.41 K/9 career average in the last two seasons after striking out over ten per nine from 2015-16. The velocity, however, has remained mostly steady, at an average of 95.6 MPH, and could perhaps be what the club is banking on in the years to come.
Ottavino, a New York City native, timed his career year perfectly last season, posting an outrageous 63 FIP-/52 ERA- in the wide open spaces of Coors Field, and striking out nearly 13 men per nine. With an unorthodox, cross-body delivery, the 33-year-old has been near-death on right-handed hitters in his career, surrendering a minuscule .273 wOBA (.346 vs LHH) against, and allowing just 0.75 HR/9 in the league’s most hitter-friendly park. His swinging strike rate of 12.1%, though, despite being well above his career average, didn’t rank among the league’s top 70 qualified relievers, which could be of concern, given the aging righty’s walk-heavy profile.
The Rangers, who don’t appear to have any near-terms hopes of competing, are somewhat of a shocking entry to the upper reaches of the free-agent ’pen market. The club’s relievers, too, weren’t much to blame for another poor showing in 2018, as the unit posted above-average park-adjusted marks (93 ERA-, 96 FIP-, 99 xFIP-) across the board, though lynchpins Keone Kela and Alex Claudio were strangely jettisoned in recent months. Jesse Chavez returns, along with a lights-out Jose Leclerc, so perhaps the club is looking to shorten the game substantially after having so much recent trouble identifying quality rotation options. A sign-and-flip could also be in the cards, though the risk inherent in that strategy, with two thirty-something relievers, may just outweigh the reward.