David Robertson isn’t coming back to the Yankees bullpen in 2019, but Brian Cashman isn’t going to let Zach Britton leave the Bronx.
Zach Britton isn’t the free agency captivating the imagination of most Yankees fans at the moment, but Brian Cashman understands he can’t afford to lose the talented southpaw. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem like the Yankees will need to survive without Britton in 2019.
According to Ken Rosenthal, a deal between New York and Britton “could be finalized soon.” It’s very likely the Yankees motivation to lock him down increased significantly with the news that David Robertson would be taking his talents to Philadelphia. The talented righty signed a multi-year agreement with the Phillies earlier this week.
Britton only arrived in New York just ahead of this year’s trade deadline, but he immediately became an integral part of Aaron Boone’s bullpen. He spent most of last season recovering from a significant Achilles injury he sustained in 2018, but his performance steadily improved as he got more innings under his belt. Britton threw 25 regular season innings for the Yankees with an ERA of 2.88.
The Yankees front office might reasonably hope that Britton throws the ball even better next season. After all, he was a legitimate Cy Young candidate back in 2016 with the Orioles. He finished that campaign with a career best ERA of 1.94 in 67 innings pitched.
It’s unlikely he’s ever going to fully regain that form, but he still has the talent to be an outstanding piece of the Yankees bullpen. The team already has one outstanding left hander in the form of closer Aroldis Chapman. Adding another southpaw who can shut down opponents in the seventh and eighth innings isn’t a luxury many teams can afford.
Predictably, Britton isn’t returning to the Bronx on the cheap. The deal will include three guaranteed years with an average annual value of $13 million. The agreement also includes an option with a fourth year that can be activated by the Yankees after year two. If they don’t exercise the option then, Britton has the chance to opt out.
Once the deal with Britton is concluded, look for the Yankees to shift their attention to Adam Ottavino. He’s the last elite reliever left on the free agent market. The former Rockies star is an ideal candidate to fill the void left by Robertson’s departure.
Re-signing Britton isn’t the sexiest move of the Yankees offseason, but it’s a key step towards helping the team win its 28th World Series title. His breaking ball could add several wins to the team’s 2019 campaign.