Zach Britton became the latest domino to fall in the relief pitching market. The former All-Star closer will return to the New York Yankees on three-year deal, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday night. The deal is said to include options for both sides after the second season.
The veteran left-hander will return to a set up role in a Yankees bullpen that still has Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances, but lost David Robertson in free agency to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Britton, who turned 31 in December, put together one of the greatest stretches ever produced by a relief pitcher from 2014-16. During that time frame he made 204 appearances, logged 209 innings and saved 120 games while posting a remarkable 1.38 ERA for the Baltimore Orioles. He’s two years removed from his peak season in 2016, in which he produced a 0.54 ERA over 69 appearances. The performance earned Britton Cy Young and MVP votes.
What’s happened since then has complicated matters. Britton missed a large portion of the 2017 season due to forearm issues and followed that by missing the first half of the 2018 campaign while recovering from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered during an offseason workout.
Despite the concerns surrounding Britton’s durability, agent Scott Boras had reportedly been holding out for a four-year guarantee. He ended up negotiating an interesting compromise. The deal guarantees Britton three years at $13 million per season, but also allows him to cash in again in two years if he pitches well.
Britton’s track record and strong finish for the Yankees in 2018 undoubtedly played in his favor. Britton was acquired by New York ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline and looked the closest he has to his old form down the stretch, compiling a 2.88 ERA over 25 appearances.
Most importantly, Britton seemed to be regaining a feel for his sinker late in September. Britton’s sinker was among the most dominant pitches in the league at its peak. If he can continue working that pitch back to peak effectiveness, this will end up being a good deal for both sides.