I think it is safe to say that while Rex Brothers is probably Roxwalkoff’s least favourite reliever (or at least, Bad Rex is, we love the guy personally and him as a player a lot when on), that Adam Ottavino is our favourite. The man named Zero is simply awesome, be it the now high 90s fastball painting a corner or that slider (or should we say 3 sliders in one), he is one of the best weapons in Rox bullpen history.
Check out these two great articles on his sliders from March on FanGraphs:
Adam is the latest in a line of former #1 picks who bombed as starters and took teams far too long to turn them into power relievers. After watching what Wade Davis did last year (and Andrew Miller, and Zero and Luke Hochever and…well you get the picture and not just from the 2006 draft), more and more teams might finally pull the plug on their starting and turn them into relievers quicker (another First Round pick from 2006, supp pick, who has made the switch, the Rox own Brooks Brown). Last year we saw the Royals bullpen put up (according to the FanGraphs scoring) WARs of 3.0 (Davis), 2.2 (Greg Holland) and 1.2 (Kelvin Herrrera), which explains why they won the Wild Card and then went all 07 Rockies through the playoffs. Add that to Miller’s 2.2 WAR (after .6 and .3 the prior two years with Red Sox, making up for the mere 1.6 WAR as a starter throughout his career), and suddenly the value of power, dependable, potentially multiple inning relievers is finally being realized.
The Rox have always needed great bullpens if they were going to be winners (2009 the lone exception). That being said they don’t usually give big or long deals to relievers. I can think of three multi-year deals in recent history:
Manny Corpas, 4-year $8,025,000 deal after breakout 2007, total WAR of contract 1.6
Matt Belisle, 2-year (with option exercised) after 2011) $12,025,000, total WAR of contract 3.1 (.3 in option year)
Boone Logan, 3-year $16,600,000, total WAR so far -0.4.
So, you can see why the Rox might want to stay clear of offering another reliever a 3 or 4-year deal for substantial money. But we have also seen the value (and the per/year contract dollars given to free agents) of relievers rise quickly. Now, it could be this is a short-term trend highlighted by the decline in scoring and the Royals/Giants success using bullpens. But with the way that power relievers in the 6th, 7th, 8th as well as closers have cut down on offense, this maybe a long-term trend.
Matt Belisle came to the Rox in 2009, had a 5+ ERA, but then in 2010 and 2011 had back-to-back years of 3.25 ERA or less (WAR of 1.1 and 1.9), so they had reason to think he had figured things out. And 2012 in the weirdest year in Coors history he still managed a quality 3.71 ERA and a 1.6 WAR. But all those appearances took their toll and from 2nd-half 2013 through 2014 and Belisle was sent packing.
Adam Ottavino came to the Rox in 2012, throwing in that hideous year a decent 4.56 ERA. But then the past two years he has stepped it up a lot, throwing out a 2.64 and 3.60 ERA (and leave out those 9 appearances in June last year, and that is around a 2 ERA). Also his SO/W ratio has gone from 2.38 to 2.52 to 4.38. His K/9 has been 9.2,9.0, and 9.7 the past 3 years. Conjecture was that the Rox kept Ottavino away from the 9th in 2014 because saves add a lot to future value in arbitration. If that is true, it is shrewd but not baseball smart. Fact is that Zero has been totally dominating the past 2 years (and parts of 2012).
Adam is already 29, and unlike Andrew Miller didn’t get to the major leagues for a while after being drafted and so has only a tad over 3 years of service time, meaning his arbitration year is 2016 and FA 2018. But the value in non-closers in arbitration will start to rise greatly as those big contract and the new valuation system starts to impact arbitrators.
So, here is the question: Should the Rox go out and offer Zero a deal that locks in their costs and buys out arbitration and maybe a year of FA? It isn’t necessary, but players with guaranteed dollars likely means that they don’t fear injury quite as much, though Zero seems to be throwing harder and harder each year. He doesn’t look like he is holding back much, but financially security cannot hurt. But he is playing this year for only $1.3 million. Last year at $502K. He might be able to quit baseball and go to work for MLB network and make that (Adam is the best special guest they have had on the network as far as I am concerned).
The Rox don’t have to do it, but maybe it is past time to show Zero some love and the money!