Otero Extension Provides Some Bullpen Answers for the Future

Last Friday, the Cleveland Indians and reliever Dan Otero came to terms on a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.

On Tuesday, the Indians did the deal one better, with an option for more, as the club extended the 32-year-old right-hander on a two-year contract with a team option for the 2020 season. The contract buys out the last two of Otero’s arbitration years (for the 2018 and 2019 seasons) and secures an unheralded piece of the Indians’ successful bullpens over the last two seasons.

Otero’s previous agreement for $1.1 million for the 2018 season remains intact. The new contract adds in a $1.3 million salary for the 2019 season and a team option for 2020 that could pay him $1.5 million (or a $100,000 buyout). The new pact also comes with an additional $100,000 in performance incentives for games pitched over each of the three seasons of the deal.

“Dan’s made huge contributions in his time with us, filling a very versatile role in our bullpen,” shared Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti about the extension. “Tito has called on him as early as the first inning in some instances and also has used him in some late-game opportunities. So, it’s a guy that we’ve come to value his consistency and his contributions, really, throughout our bullpen in a variety of different roles.”

The Indians bullpen is an area of concern, not just for the coming season, but the years to follow. The team could lose both Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith to free agency this winter, and to compound things further, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and Zach McAllister can all become free agents at the conclusion of the 2018 season. With Otero now locked in through at least 2019, it leaves the club with just Nick Goody and Tyler Olson on the relief portion of the roster in the near future.

Otero has functioned as a Swiss Army knife of sorts in manager Terry Francona‘s bullpen over the last two seasons. Picked up in a cash swap with the Philadelphia Phillies nearly two years ago, Otero has been used in a variety of roles and has remained one of the more trustworthy relievers in Francona’s bullpen. Despite being a reliable option out of the ‘pen, he was held off of the Indians’ playoff roster this past October.

Last season, he appeared in 52 games for the Indians, earning three wins while posting a 2.85 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. It followed an impressive debut season in Cleveland, when he went 5-1 with a 1.53 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP in 62 appearances in 2016.

He struggled some with left-handers last season, making him more of a matchup option for the club when not using him to eat up tons of innings. He limited right-handed hitters to a .231 average while averaging 8.33 strikeouts/walk, but lefties hit .341 and Otero had just a 2.17 K/W rate. It followed his career trends, although the disparity was a bit more noticeable in 2017.

While the bulk of Otero’s work came in the final three innings of games (38 of his 60 innings pitched), he managed to take the mound in all nine innings over the course of the season. He appeared in the first three innings of games on six different occasions and stopped the bleeding that forced his early work on the mound by posting a 1.35 ERA in that span. He served as middle relief in the middle of 15 different games in innings four, five, and six, and totaled 38 innings in 38 games from innings seven through nine.

Otero began his professional career in 2007 when he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 21st round. He was claimed off of waivers by the New York Yankees at the end of spring training in 2013, but was picked up off of waivers by the Oakland A’s the next day. He spent three seasons in the Bay before the Philadelphia Phillies added him on a waiver claim in November of 2015. They sold his contract to the Tribe a month and a half later.

Photo: Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

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