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Yankees acquire Zach Britton, add another elite reliever

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New York’s first deal of the 2018 trade season is a big one.

The Yankees acquire two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton. Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

With all the talk focused on the need to land a top starter, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s first move of this year’s trade-deadline frenzy was to augment a significant team strength. The deal to acquire Orioles closer Zach Britton adds another great arm to what is already a dominant Yankees bullpen.

Britton: Two-time All-Star closer

The southpaw has served as Baltimore’s closer since 2014. During that time, he was a two-time All-Star, while setting the American League record with 55 consecutive saves. Britton’s best year was 2016, when he led the league with 47 saves, 63 games finished, and posted a microscopic 0.54 ERA. That historic campaign earned Britton a fourth-place finish in Cy Young Award voting to go along with some down-ballot MVP votes.

Injuries plagued Britton in 2017, including a recurring forearm issue. He appeared in only 38 games for the O’s, and saw his season end with a knee injury. Britton then tore his Achilles during an offseason workout in December, which required surgery. He didn’t appear in a major-league game this season until June 12th.

The 30-year-old appears to have returned to dominant form. He’s made 16 appearances, striking out 13 batters, while only allowing one home run. Britton has walked 10 over 15 2/3 innings, but three of those free passes came in his first game after coming off the disabled list.

Impact on the Yankees roster

Aroldis Chapman figures to remain entrenched as the Yankees closer as long as he remains healthy. Saturday’s wildness notwithstanding, Chapman has been stellar for the Yankees this season, converting 26 of 27 save opportunities. Still, Britton’s presence in the bullpen gives manager Aaron Boone another ninth-inning option, particularly when faced with the prospect of pitching Chapman three straight days.

With Jonathan Holder having ascended to join Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Chad Green, and Chapman in the bullpen circle of trust, it appears that either Chasen Shreve or A.J. Cole will be the odd man out. Shreve is the most likely candidate, having struggled to throw strikes (and miss bats when he does), while Cole has allowed just two earned runs in 20.2 innings since joining the Yankees. Both players are out of minor-league options.

Impact on the AL pennant race

Britton’s acquisition is a major coup for the Yankees as far as the AL East race goes. Boston is in desperate need of bullpen help, and was said to be a finalist in the Britton sweepstakes. Adding to the club’s own arsenal, while simultaneously depriving their primary divisional competitor of the same, is a win for the Yankees.

This also helps the team in the greater pennant chase, as Houston was interested in Britton’s services. The Yankees already possessed a decisive advantage in the battle of the bullpens compared to other AL pennant contenders. Landing Britton tips the scales even more.

Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll, and Josh Rogers head to Baltimore

The Yankees send their number nine prospect (per MLB Pipeline) Dillon Tate, number 15 prospect Cody Carroll, and the unranked Josh Rogers to Baltimore to complete the swap. Tate came over from Texas in the 2016 Carlos Beltran deal. The right-handed starter was assigned to Double-A Trenton, and had been scheduled to make his first start tonight since returning from the DL when it was scratched because of the trade.

Carroll opened eyes during spring training for the Yankees this year, and many expect him to become a big-league closer. Rogers, meanwhile, made 19 starts for Triple-A Scranton this season, pitching to a 3.95 ERA.

This trade is a win-win for both organizations. With Britton slated to hit free agency following the season, the Yankees get a great arm at a reasonable financial cost. They are on the hook for a pro-rated portion of Britton’s $12 million contract, which should leave them about $10 million under the luxury tax. The Orioles, meanwhile, get three arms with potential. Tate, Carroll, and Rogers could come back to hurt the Yankees on the field in years to come, but for now, this a good deal for the Bombers.