Zack Britton will hold down a slot in the Yankees’ bullpen for at least two more seasons. Andy Martino reports that the Yankees picked up the left-handed reliever’s 2022 option, making the possibility of an opt-out this winter moot.
Britton’s contract, the swell-opt, basically worked like this: after two guaranteed years, the Yankees had to decide whether they wanted to guarantee Britton four years total, 2021 and 2022, immediately after the 2020 World Series. If they had declined that option, Britton could have opted out of the 2021 season, becoming a free agent.
It’s been a weird winter already for relief arms, with Cleveland outrighting Brad Hand and Atlanta turning down Darren O’Day’s option. The Yankees could have gambled on a soft market discouraging Britton from opting out, but in the end, they feel he’ll produce enough value over the next two seasons to outweigh the now-guaranteed $27 million he’ll be paid for that time. Certainly since joining the Yankees, Britton’s been worth his deal, with a 206 ERA+ and terrific groundball rate, while working primarily in the eighth and ninth innings.
This is the first of several dominos that need to fall in the Yankee offseason, and making such a quick decision means they’re now free to focus on the other pressing issues of the winter, including the impending free agencies of DJ LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka.