The Yankees are bringing back free-agent left-handed reliever Zach Britton, who pitched the last two-plus months of the 2018 season with them after being acquired from the Orioles. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal was the first to report that the teams were close to a deal on Saturday night, while ESPN’s Jeff Passan pitched in with the details. The structure of the deal — which is expected to pay him a salary in the range of $13 million a season — is complicated, as the Yankees will have to make a decision on picking up Britton’s option for 2022 after the 2020 season. If they decide not to pick up the option, Britton will have the ability to opt out immediately rather than playing out the third year of the contract:
#Yankees progressing toward deal with free-agent reliever Zach Britton, sources tell The Athletic. Could be finalized soon.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 6, 2019
When finalized, Zach Britton's deal with the Yankees will be for three years guaranteed, sources tell ESPN. The Yankees will be able to exercise a fourth-year option after the second season. If they don't, Britton will have the ability to opt out following that second year.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 6, 2019
Zach Britton's deal with the Yankees will be in the range of $13 million a season, sources tell ESPN. The deal guarantees three years, includes a club option for a fourth season that can be exercised after Year 2 and, if not exercised, Britton can opt out after that second year.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 6, 2019
Just a couple seasons ago, Britton was widely considered the top reliever in the majors, and he finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2016 — an extremely impressive and rare accomplishment for a closer — after posting a 0.54 ERA and 0.84 WHIP with 47 saves in 69 appearances. Britton has regressed a bit over the past couple years, and he was somewhat inconsistent in 2018 after returning from a torn Achilles suffered during an offseason workout. He was still solid, though, throwing for a combined 3.10 ERA and 1.23 WHIP (with a somewhat concerning 34 strikeouts and 21 walks) over 40.2 innings between Baltimore and New York. He struggled a bit during the postseason, too, allowing two homers and three earned runs over five innings.
Though the Yankees lost David Robertson via free agency to the Phillies, they’ll return Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Chad Green, and now Britton (as well as two guys in Tommy Kahnle and Jonathan Holder who have been up and down but have shown the ability to be great at times), meaning that they should have one of baseball’s most fearsome bullpens again in 2019.