Update 1/11/19: The Yankees made the Zach Britton deal official. To make room, the team designated infielder Hanser Alberto for assignment. Welcome back, Britton!
1/5/19: Not long after David Robertson signed with the Phillies, the Yankees brought back their other notable free agent reliever. According to Jeff Passan, the team reached an agreement with left-handed pitcher Zach Britton. The deal is worth $39 million, and it contains a second-year club option that could push the contract towards $53 million. Britton also has an opt-out clause after the second year. Ken Rosenthal first had that the Yankees were close to an agreement.
Britton, 31, pitched to a 3.10 ERA (4.22 FIP) over 40.2 innings in 2018. An elite groundball pitcher, the left-hander registered a 73% groundball rate. His walks were up (4.65 BB/9), but one can attribute that to shaking off rust. He missed the start of the season recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, and then was traded to the Yankees on July 25th.
After joining New York’s bullpen, Britton managed a 2.88 ERA (4.08 FIP). He worked a number of high-leverage roles, including filling in at closer down the stretch. One can expect him to slot back into that position.
For what it’s worth, Britton spoke highly of his time in New York. He explained that he had interest in returning to the club.
“I’m sure we’ll kind of see where they are and where we are, but I would definitely love to be back,” Britton told Brendan Kuty in September. “I don’t know where they are in terms of arbitration raises and all that, but this would definitely be one of my top choices.”
Since transitioning into a full-time reliever in 2014, Britton owns a 1.82 ERA (2.78 FIP) across 287 innings. He ranks first in ERA as well as groundball rate (76.4%) in that span. Those results benefit from an other-worldly 2016 campaign, but a healthy Britton stands out among the very best bullpen weapons in baseball.
With Britton back in the fold, the Yankees now have options. They can focus on further buttressing the bullpen by signing someone like Adam Ottavino, or they can devote their attention to Manny Machado. Either way, this should get the ball rolling.