What Adam Ottavino brings to the Mets bullpen in his 3rd consecutive season with team

The news of Adam Ottavino‘s reunion with the Mets broke shortly before the annual Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Saturday night at the New York Hilton Midtown. The right-handed reliever confirmed the news himself while receiving the Good Guy Award, an award given by the New York chapter to the player in the city who displays goodwill and cooperation with the beat reporters.

It’s true that Ottavino is insightful with the media and that insight extends to the bullpen where the 38-year-old Brooklyn native has been able to continually reinvent himself throughout his 13-year Major League career. The addition of Ottavino gives the Mets an established setup man and the veteran high-leverage reliever the club badly needed.

“I’d like to thank the Mets for keeping me around,” Ottavino said as he concluded his acceptance speech. “And let’s go Mets.”

However, this signing doesn’t come without some scrutiny. Ottavino, who pitched for the Mets in 2022 and 2023 after stints with the Cardinals, Rockies, Yankees and Red Sox, regressed some last season. This isn’t exactly surprising considering his age. His ERA went from 2.06 in 2022 to 3.21 in 2023 and his walk rate nearly doubled, going from 2.2 per nine innings to 4.2. He was hit harder and stranded fewer runners.

But he also changed his pitch mix. After years of working primarily off of his sinker and slider, he threw his cutter more, which naturally complements a sinker/slider mix, and also threw a sweeper and a changeup at times.

After years of getting lit up by left-handed hitters, he became a go-to guy to face lefties in late innings. Lefties hit .217 off Ottavino last season, a marked improvement over previous years, and he credited the cutter.

There were bumps in the road against left-handers last season — a home run by Michael Harris II in a particularly brutal June series in Atlanta stands out — but Ottavino gives the Mets another weapon against left-handers in late innings.

This is valuable since Brooks Raley is the only left-handed reliever on the roster. Josh Walker will compete for a spot in spring training and likely make some appearances throughout the season, but he’s lacking the leverage experience of Raley and Ottavino.

Walker looked to Ottavino for advice during his brief time in the big leagues last season, as did another homegrown reliever, right-hander Grant Hartwig. The Mets have had trouble developing pitchers in recent seasons and those two could be success stories if they can improve on their 2023 performances. Ottavino embraced the role of bullpen mentor late last year, taking the lessons he learned from his mentors and passing them along to Walker, Hartwig and anyone else who needed some guidance. Raley, Ottavino and Edwin Diaz are assets in the bullpen for many reasons, one of which is leadership.

Ottavino has also proven durable, having made 66 appearances for the Mets in each of the last two seasons and 69 for Boston in 2021. He also knows what it takes to pitch in New York. Ottavino grew up reading the sports sections of the city’s tabloids on his way to school every morning and saw the pitchers who won in the city and the ones who couldn’t handle the intense spotlight. President of baseball operations David Stearns, a Manhattan native, has shown an affinity for players who have had success in the city.

Ottavino was never shy about his desire to stay in New York, so it came as a surprise when he declined to exercise his player option for 2024 shortly after the World Series concluded. At the time, he cited uncertainty in the direction of the team. With a $6.75 million price tag attached, the option would have paid him more, but much of that money was deferred. His current contract is for $4.5 million.

The group behind Diaz and Raley looked thin without Ottavino. Right-hander Drew Smith returns and further down the depth chart are returning right-handers Phil Bickford, Sean Reid-Foley and Reed Garrett. The Mets made some minor additions this winter with right-handers Jorge Lopez, Michael Tonkin, Jorge Lopez and Yohan Ramirez. It would benefit the Mets to add another established reliever to that group, but regardless, Ottavino makes the group better.