Source: Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports
The New York Yankees have fortified their bullpen by re-signing relief pitcher Zach Britton, who they acquired just before the non-waiver trade deadline this past season. Britton's new deal is 3 years at $13 million a season. After year two, the Yankees will have to make a decision on whether or not they want to exercise a fourth-year option for Britton. However, if the Yankees decline to do so, then Britton will have the option to opt-out of the contract. A somewhat strange contract structure, but it looks like a solid deal for Britton.
Britton is coming off of an injury-shortened season where his performance wasn't at his usual standards. Last December, Britton tore his Achilles, which caused him to miss the first two and a half months of the season. After returning, Britton put together a 3.10 ERA in 40 2/3 innings with 34 strikeouts and 21 walks in a season that was split between the Baltimore Orioles and Yankees. In reality, the Yankees aren't giving him this contract based on what he did last season. He's receiving this contract because of his performances from the years prior, and what the team expects him to be able to accomplish in the upcoming season. Let's not forget that Britton is only a few years removed from finishing fourth in Cy Young voting and eleventh in MVP voting in a season that saw him convert 47-of-47 saves, with a spectacular 0.54 ERA. Another positive stat that I'm sure the Yankees love about Britton is his groundball percentage. Seeing as how a lot of home runs are hit at Yankee Stadium, having a pitcher that can keep the ball on the ground is crucial. Britton's ground ball percentages over the past five seasons are as follows: 75.3, 79.1, 80, 72.6 and 73% which ranked 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 1st in the Majors among players who've pitched 30+ innings.
Despite the subpar season for Britton, it's safe to assume that this upcoming season will be more successful. It's not a stretch to say that even though he recovered from the Achilles injury, that it still had some effect on his performance. Now that he is a full year removed from that injury, I would expect to see the Britton-of-old when the new season kicks off.
Whichever way you look at it, this is an important move for the Yankees. After losing David Robertson to the Phillies through free agency, New York's bullpen was looking thin. Britton adds some much-needed depth, while also providing another lefty who can close games when needed. As we have seen over the past couple of seasons, Aroldis Chapman can't be trusted to stay healthy for the entire season. If he were to get injured, this move gives them a solid fill-in option for the closing role.
Now it looks like the Yankees may shift their focus to right-handed reliever Adam Ottavino, to further bolster the bullpen.
Oh, and they should probably sign that Manny Machado guy.