The New York Yankees couldn’t afford to lose Zack Britton

Andres Chavez
New York Yankees, Zack Britton
New York Yankees, Zack Britton

Per the terms of the deal, the New York Yankees needed to pick up Zack Britton’s 2022 option in order to prevent him from opting out of the two remaining seasons in the contract, 2021 and 2022. The left-hander groundball specialist is not precisely cheap (he will earn $13 million next season and $14 million the year after) but the team just couldn’t afford to lose him. And that’s why they essentially decided to “opt in” the remaining two years on his pact.

While the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers have managed to build two super-bullpens, the Yankees’ unit is not what it once was. In 2018 and 2019, there were at least six or seven trustworthy arms that manager Aaron Boone could rely on. Now, in the 2020 season and after Tommy Kahnle got injured, it was evident that only three relief pitchers were in the circle of trust.

Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green and Britton were the only arms in which Boone trusted come crunch time. Jonathan Holder, Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa are talented, but inconsistent, while Adam Ottavino seems to have regressed and is no longer the dominant reliever the Yankees signed before the 2019 season.

The New York Yankees, therefore, should be looking to add to their bullpen corps, not substracting. Letting Britton walk would have meant that the trio of reliable bullpen arms was going to be just a pair of good options, and lots of question marks.

The Yankees had to pay for his worth

Britton, 32, has earned the money at this point of his career. Not only with consistent excellence, but also with stellar recent performance. In 20 games in the short 2020 season, the lefty pitched 19.0 frames and had a 1.89 ERA, a 2.61 FIP and a 3.42 xFIP. He struck out 21.1 percent of the batters he faced and was once again among the leaders in groundball rate, with 71.7 percent.

In 2020, Britton had a 1.00 WHIP and batters hit just .174 off him. He is as high-leverage as it gets for the Yankees, and will keep getting important outs for the next two seasons, at the very least.

The hope is that the Yankees can add more talent to the unit via trades, free agency or player development. To keep competing with the best of the best, addressing the bullpen is absolutely necessary.