Improving their bullpen should be a priority for the Yankees this offseason, and the first step is maintaining the very good baseline. It seems like they’ve done just that, as SNY’s Andy Martino reports that the team exercised Zack Britton’s option. Martino’s report follows a tweet from Britton himself a few minutes earlier, which seemed to break the news:
Remember, this keeps the 32-year-old lefty in the Bronx through the 2022 season. That’s technically what the Yankees exercised today: his 2022 option, not 2021. Had they declined, Britton would have had a player option for the 2021 season. He will earn $13 million in 2021 and $14 million in 2022.
This was a no-brainer for baseball reasons. The Yankees player union representative has a 2.14 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 105.1 innings pitched since joining the Bombers bullpen back in 2018. He has an obscene 76% ground ball rate over that period. Overall, the lefty has been a reliable addition to a formidable pen.
He kept up that excellence in 2020, with a 1.89 ERA (2.82 FIP) in 19 innings pitched for the Yanks. Britton’s 33% strikeout rate was a career high and likely a function of the short season, but perhaps not! Anyway, he was a rock-solid late inning option for Aaron Boone. Overall, Britton limits hard contact and induces the most ground balls in baseball, which helps him overcome a high walk rate.
Despite the obvious on-field value, this was still not a given. Cleveland declined Brad Hand’s cheaper option. St. Louis declined Kolten Wong’s. This is likely going to be the trend. Teams are crying poor. So, while Britton is worth the money, it is still an encouraging sign. I know we’re all pre-mad at the Yankees for some reason, but this is an early signal that they will not be as “fiscally responsible” as other teams.
Welcome back, Zack. The next step is for the Yankees to give him some new friends out there. Hand is a good place to start.