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Grading the Zach Britton trade for the Yankees and Orioles

A closer look at how both the Yankees and Orioles fared in the deal that sent former All Star closer Zach Britton to New York last night.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles
Zach Britton
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

In a fairly rare move an AL East team completed a trade with the New York Yankees, as the Baltimore Orioles sent former All Star closer Zach Britton to the Bronx in exchange for three prospects. The Yankees are picking up potentially the best reliever on the market, should they be buying Britton at close to 100%, while the Orioles add some much needed pitching to their farm system.

Here is a closer look at how both teams made out with a deal for arguably the second most expensive rental on the market this year, behind just the recently dealt Manny Machado.

New York Yankees Grade: B

Receive: RP Zach Britton

This is a hard trade to grade right now for the Yankees. It’s obvious that they paid a significant price in terms of the cost for a rental, but this grade can move up or down significantly depending on what version of Britton the Yankees are receiving. Is this the guy who between 2014 and 2016 posted a 1.38 ERA , 0.91 WHIP, 299 ERA+, and two All Star bids? Or is this the guy who between 2017 and 2018 has just 53 innings pitched with a 3.06 ERA and 1.47 WHIP?

Britton had a forearm strain that sent him to the disabled list multiple times last year, ending on the 60-day DL. This year he began the season back on the 60-day DL because of an Achilles injury. So there are definitely health risks with the talented lefty.

This year Britton has a 3.45 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and 122 ERA+ over 15.2 innings- but if you take out one awful appearance against the Braves where he allowed four runs on five hits while recording only one out, those numbers drop to a much nicer looking 1.17 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. Yes the walks are high at 10 given up in those 15.2 innings of work, but if you take out the three he gave up in his first game back the numbers look better even though they are still a bit high.

It is important to note that Britton’s stuff is down. During his three year stretch of dominance his fastball average velocity ranged between 95.1 MPH and 96.3 MPH, while it is at just 94.4 this year. His slider was between 82.2 MPH and 83.4 MPH, and is down to 80.8 MPH this year. He is also using the slider a little less, as he didn’t use it less than 7.8% of his pitches during any of those three great seasons, and he is only using it at 5.6% this year. His swing and miss percentage of 13.7% is also quite a bit lower than the average of 16.6% between 2015 and 2016- though it is a little better than the 13.1% from 2014. Of course we are talking a very small sample size here for this year, but these are numbers to pay attention to going forward.

To put this simply, if the Yankees are getting a Britton anything like the 2014-2016 version they have made a major upgrade at a high but fair price. However if Britton can’t perform anything like he did at his peak or battles injury down the stretch, the Orioles would have taken advantage of Britton’s name and track record to get a nice return.

Baltimore Orioles Grade: A

Receive: RHP Dillon Tate, RHP Cody Carroll, LHP Josh Rogers

This is a home run for Baltimore. It’s hard to see how they could have done better for Zach Britton. He’s a rental, he’s got health questions, and it was clear that they are in desperate need of selling off talent to rebuild. They got a pair of very nice pieces in the return, and did well to add to their pitching depth that was severely lacking a week ago.

Dillon Tate is the big prize. The former fourth overall draft pick by the Texas Rangers in 2015 out of UC Santa Barbara was traded to the Yankees in 2016 for Carlos Beltran. Tate has had an up and down minor league career, dealing with both injuries and inconsistent stuff. This year he made 15 starts for Double A Trenton and was 5-2 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 75 strikeouts to 25 walks over 82.2 innings.

When Tate is on his stuff suggests a pitcher who looks like one of the Top 100 prospects in the game. His four seam fastball bumps up to 98 MPH, though it sits in the mid 90s, and he has a heavy two seamer in the low 90s which provides a slightly different look from the four seamer. Tate’s breaking ball is a borderline plus slider. This pitch looked like a clear future plus pitch out of college, and played a big part in why he was drafted so high. However it hasn’t been nearly as strong as a pro and plays more above average. His fourth pitch is a changeup that also has a chance to become a future plus pitch, and could be a weapon combined with his two fastballs.

It is important to remember Tate only started for one season in college, as he moved from the bullpen to the rotation for his breakout junior season. He came in to pro ball a little more raw than most college arms but with big stuff. Despite some drops in the quality of his stuff, primarily in 2016, Tate’s stuff isn’t far off where it was expected to be overall and he’s already having success in Double A. It wouldn’t be out of the question for him to appear in Baltimore as soon as 2019, and he could become a solid middle of the rotation starter with the potential for more should the slider make progress.

Cody Carroll is a big 6’5”, 215 pound former college starter turned reliever. Taken out of Southern Miss in the 22nd round in 2015, Carroll had a breakout in 2017 between High A and Double A. He finished the season by going to the Arizona Fall League and absolutely dominating- he gave up no runs and just two hits over 11.2 innings of work.

This year Carroll moved to Triple A and has been excellent. He has saved nine games while posting a 2.38 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 55 strikeouts to 18 walks over 41.2 innings. Carroll gives up less than six hits per nine innings, as he is very tough for batters to hit, especially from the right side where batters post just a .410 OPS against him. Lefties have a little more success with a .625 OPS, but he is still solid against them as well.

I’ve been able to watch Carroll in person multiple times this year and am very impressed with him. He’s one of the best pure relief prospects in the game thanks to a fastball which has hit as high as 101 MPH and grades out as a true plus plus pitch. Carroll also has a slurvy breaking ball(more slider) that is a borderline plus pitch and it also gives hitters a hard time. His upside is a bit of a question because he is prone to command problems. Should his command take a step forward he most definitely has the pure stuff to close out games at the big league level, but if not he would be more of a setup man type.

Josh Rogers is the third piece of the return, and while he’s not a big name or a high end prospect that doesn’t mean he doesn’t add some value. The lefty was drafted in the 11th round out of Louisville in 2015 and has reached Triple A this year. Overall he is 6-8 with a 3.95 ERA and 1.35 WHIP with 83 strikeouts to 29 walks in 109.1 innings.

I’ve seen Rogers live and think that despite the fact he is starting and having moderate success in Triple A, he may be best in the pen at the next level. Rogers doesn’t have the pure stuff to be anything more than a #5 starter, and would likely be below average in that role as teams would be able to load up with right handed hitters against him...right handers have hurt him this year, posting a .823 OPS against him including a .477 slugging percentage.

It is lefties that he has most success with and why I think his ideal role might be as a LOOGY. Rogers has limited lefties to a .534 OPS against him, and given up just five extra base hits to them in 140 plate appearances.

His stuff is exactly what you’d expect from a lefty from Louisville taken in the 11th round. He’s a kid with command and pitchability, but his fastball sits more in the 88-91 MPH range with sink, and has a quality change along with a slider. He may have earned a chance to get some big league starts with some Triple A success and Baltimore needing arms, but longterm the pen is his best chance of finding success in the bigs.