The Yankees’ number one need at the trade deadline—and all year long, for that matter—was starting pitching help. Unfortunately, the ace starting pitchers tree was bare. After trying and failing to shake loose someone like Jacob deGrom, Brian Cashman was forced to settle for J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn. He also decided to strengthen what was already the best part of the team: the bullpen. The Orioles just so happened to be selling anything that wasn’t tied down. Despite being division foes, the two sides eventually agreed upon a deal that sent prospect pitchers Dillon Tate, Josh Rogers, and Cody Carroll over to Baltimore in exchange for Zach Britton.
2018 Statistics: 40.2 IP, 3.10 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 7.52 K/9, 4.65 BB/9, 0.66 HR/9, 1.23 WHIP
2019 Contract Status: Free agent
Britton’s last really good season was 2016. The left-hander has struggled to stay healthy ever since. In 2017, he missed two months with a left forearm strain. He then suffered a left knee injury that hampered him for the last six weeks of the season. In December 2017, Britton ruptured his right Achilles tendon during a workout. It was a long road to recovery, and he didn’t end up making his season debut until mid-June. With just 15.2 innings under his belt at the time of the trade, it was a bit unclear what to expect from him. There was the hope that he would regain his All-Star form the further removed from the injury he was, thus making it a relatively low-risk, high-reward move.
For the most part, that ended up being true. He was by no means the best arm in the bullpen, and he had a couple of rocky outings in August, but got better as the end of the season approached. His strikeouts and walks rebounded a bit with the Yankees. When he did get into trouble, though, it was his command that failed him. Britton finished the year with the second highest walk rate of his career. His tendency to issue walks was really the only blip on an otherwise fantastic September. Through 9.2 innings, he surrendered just three hits, zero earned runs, and walked four batters.
Britton had some good and bad moments in the postseason. In the Wild Card Game, it was the left-hander who ended up being responsible for the only two runs that the Athletics scored thanks to a home run off the bat of Khris Davis. He tossed scoreless innings in Games One and Two of the ALDS. However, the solo shot that he surrendered to Christian Vazquez ended up being the difference maker in Game Five.
It will be interesting to see what the Yankees decide to do about the bullpen. In addition to losing Britton to free agency, David Robertson is also a free agent. After being spoiled with such a dominant bullpen, I can’t help but want them to bring back both relievers and keep it intact. Britton will be entering his age-31 season, and there’s every reason to think that he’d be closer to 2016 form if he is able to stay healthy.
Do you think the Yankees should sign Britton to a new deal?