Adding an elite arm to your bullpen is always a good idea. That’s why Adam Ottavino will find himself with lots of suitors this offseason, the Chicago Cubs should be one of them.
Position: Relief Pitcher
2018 Stats: 2.43 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 2.69 FIP, 3.02 DRA, 67 DRA-, 1.7 WARP
How He Fits: Outside of a slightly down 2017, the right-hander has been a top reliever with the Colorado Rockies for a few years now. The reason for that is simple: his devastating slider. His sinker is pretty good as well, but it exists as a setup pitch for his slider. Generating a high amount of swings and misses, the slider has become Ottavino’s primary pitch. With that pitch, Ottavino became the anchor of a good Rockies bullpen.
The Cubs already have a good bullpen, but near the end of 2018, that bullpen became an issue. Carl Edwards Jr. struggled as the season wore on, Brandon Morrow missed the entire second half with an injury, and Pedro Strop wound up on the disabled list after legging out a grounder… for some dumb reason. Jesse Chavez and Jorge de la Rosa filled in admirably, but 2018 was yet another season that proved injuries can really hurt a bullpen.
That’s where an arm like Ottavino comes in handy. If the Cubs sign him then they have more depth than they did in 2018. Or, I should say, more elite depth. Ottavino fits right in with the top of the Cubs pen, and his ability to miss bats would be huge at the end of close games. Ottavino’s stats are dependably great, and his peripherals are trending positively. There’s no reason that an arm like his shouldn’t be added to a bullpen that would be among the best in the league with his presence.
Why It Won’t Work: Before the offseason, there was only one legitimate reason Ottavino wouldn’t fit on the Cubs, and that reason (Chavez) just signed a two-year pact with Texas. Additionally, their target after letting Justin Wilson go should be a left-handed reliever. Now, they shouldn’t settle for a lefty, and that means the only reason they should stay away from an arm like Ottavino’s is if a comparable lefty is available to them through free agency or trade.
The reason that some will use, maybe even the reason the Cubs themselves provide, is money. That’s not a legitimate reason, of course, because no matter how loudly ownership and the front office shout that they have a tight budget, that’s simply not the truth. Money should not be a concern when it comes to signing the best players in the middle of this team’s championship window. I’m not about to regurgitate lies from any Major League Baseball team, so no, money is not a legitimate reason for not signing Ottavino.
Alternatives: The only two comparable free agent arms in the 2019 class are David Robertson and Joakim Soria. Maybe, just maybe, Joe Kelly if he were able to come in and improve his control and durability. Craig Kimbrel is better now, but over the course of a long-term contract, I’m not convinced that Kimbrel will stay elite. Outside of a trade for Sean Doolittle, there isn’t a clear cut better option for someone who can be a setup stud like Ottavino.
William Andrus on Flickr (Original version) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons