Yanks acquire elite Reliever for Stretch Run…
I am not sure how I felt when I first heard that trade negotiations were heating up between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. In 2016, there was not a more dominant reliever in baseball than Zach Britton. He was 2-1 with 47 saves and was virtually unhittable with 0.54 ERA (giving up only four earned runs in 67 innings pitched). He struck out 74 batters and was only touched for one home run. He thrust his name in the arena of elite closers, but then the last couple of years have been injury-filled. After accumulating 120 saves between 2014 and 2016, he has only 19 this year and last. By comparison, the interim closer for the O’s, Brad Brach, has 29 saves for 2017 and YTD 2018.
When healthy, there are not too many pitchers better than Britton. Plus, he’s a lefty so that’s huge plus for Yankee Stadium. Hopefully this means that Chasen Shreve’s days are numbered. When Britton returned from the DL, he was generally effective although his ERA was torched by a bad outing in Atlanta on June 22nd when he gave up 4 runs on 5 hits while recording only a single out. But in July, he’s been his dominant self, allowing no runs over 7 innings and striking out 13. He shut down the Yankees for an inning on July 10th (the two-homer game by former Oriole Manny Machado), picking up the win on the walk-off single by Jonathan Schoop. He struck out the last two Yankees he faced (Miguel Andujar and Greg Bird).
I am in favor of the Britton trade, but I think I was as grateful he wasn’t traded to the Houston Astros or the Boston Red Sox as I was with the thought of him restoring the three-headed beast in the bullpen that has been missing since the Yankees traded away Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in 2016 (with no offense to David Robertson, who remains one of my favorite Yankees).
Yesterday must have been weird for Britton. His team was playing the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards in Baltimore. When the game started, Britton and the Orioles were 42 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East Standings. By the time the rain-delayed game ended, Britton had gained 37 ½ games on the Red Sox, thanks to his new Pinstripes. Britton first became aware of the potential Yankees trade during the rain delay when he was met with countless messages and texts on his cell phone so it must have been bittersweet for him to watch his teammates defeat the Red Sox when play resumed. Part of me wished that the O’s had brought Britton out one last time (nothing better than to see him defeat the Red Sox), but the Orioles were not going to risk potential injury to jeopardize the trade. So Brad Brach came in to close it out and nearly blew the game in the rain-marred 9th inning. But in the end, he left the game-tying and -winning runs stranded on base by inducing the great Mookie Betts to hit into a game-ending double play. The win allowed Britton to walk away from Camden Yards on a positive note.
So, welcome to the New York Yankees, Zach Britton! Whether your stay is only for a few months or long-term should you decide to sign with the Yankees in the off-season, we are glad to have you. With Chapman’s knee issues, I am sure that there will be save opportunities for you. Looking forward to watching you send AL hitters home frustrated with that deadly sinker.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)
As for the guys the Yankees gave up, the one I probably hated to see leave the most was Cody Carroll. I’ve liked the reliever for the last few years but the loaded Yankees pen has kept him at Triple A. Although he has been assigned to the O’s Triple A club in Norfolk, there’s no doubt he’ll soon be making his Major League debut for his new club. Former Yanks like Richard Bleier and Yefry Ramirez (the winner pitcher in Baltimore’s win over the Red Sox yesterday) have done very well for the Orioles and I expect no less from Carroll. The headliner was Dillon Tate who has restored his stock as a quality prospect this year after once being selected fourth overall in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. Tate, acquired in the trading deadline deal that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers two years ago, may turn out to be a fine middle-of-the-rotation starter or a good setup reliever but he was never going to get that opportunity in New York. There are too many better guys in front of him. Josh Rogers has been a nice left-handed starter for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but I agree with one Yankees beat writer that labeled him as a “poor man’s Jordan Montgomery”. With so many players needing protection from the Rule 5 Draft in December, I have no problem clearing the board of some of the fringe prospects. The fact the Yankees got an elite reliever without giving up a player from the cream of their prospects is incredible. The Yankees paid more for Britton than the A’s paid for Mets closer Jeurys Familia but it was worth it. Casey Stern’s famous quote (“Prospects are cool…Parades are cooler”) is very appropriate in this situation. If the Yankees win the World Series, I am not going to worry about future damage that Tate, Carroll and Rogers may do to the Yankees just like Cubs fans do not regret the trade that sent the very talented young Gleyber Torres to the Yankees.
There’s now less than a week to go to the non-waivers trading deadline next Tuesday. I still fully anticipate a trade for a proven starter although I do not feel the Yankees will be making any surprise stealth moves to acquire premium starters like Jacob deGrom or Madison Bumgarner. At this point, I probably feel more strongly than ever that J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays has a future in the Bronx. Given the Yankees are responsible for the full pro-rated balance of Britton’s one-year deal, I think they’ll tread lightly for luxury tax avoidance purposes. So, Happ makes more sense to me than Cole Hamels even though the latter has the better post-season resume. Although Happ has generally been awful for his last few starts, he held the Orioles to 1 run on 4 hits over 5 innings in his most recent start, striking out 9. He has shown the ability to beat the Astros and Red Sox so I’d have no qualms about adding him to the rotation. Zach Britton represents huge insurance and protection for Happ’s addition.
Lost in the Britton trade was the dominating performance of Masahiro Tanaka last night as the Yankees took down the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-0. Tanaka pitched a complete game shut-out, giving up only three hits and avoiding his usual obligatory home runs. He walked a batter and struck out 9 while throwing 105 pitches and lowering his season ERA to 4.09. After watching Luis Severino fall down against the Rays the night before, the Yankees needed a solid effort from Tanaka and they got it.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Ehrmann)
The win allowed the Yankees (64-35) to pick up a game on the Red Sox (71-32). The Yankees are 5 games behind the Red Sox entering play today and they are 5 games up on the Seattle Mariners in the AL Wild Card Standings.
I haven’t heard yet when Britton will join his new team but I think it would be foolish to make him travel to Tampa, Florida for today’s game, particularly given its early start time. The Yankees bullpen is rested and they can afford to wait a day for Britton’s arrival. Therefore, I’d send Britton to New York in anticipation of Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. It would give Britton a breather to adjust to the change and to make temporary living accommodations. I’ve wondered if third base coach Phil Nevin will give up #53 for Britton. It’s not like he is married to the number. I guess we’ll soon find out.
Luis Cessa (1-1, 3.00 ERA) makes his return to the Yankees today for the start in the series finale with the Rays. He’ll be opposed by former (and maybe future?) Yank Nathan Eovaldi (3-4, 4.26 ERA). The Yankees are expected to activate Gleyber Torres before today’s game. It will be interesting to see the roster move made to open a spot for Torres. Cessa’s spot was opened by last night’s demotion of Giovanny Gallegos to Triple A. The most likely guy to join him with the RailRiders is Tyler Wade although Brandon Drury could certainly be an option if he needs a stint on the DL following his hand injury yesterday. Test results on the hand were negative but Drury’s hand is bruised and he could miss a few days. A short stint on the DL might be good for him. Inevitably, I see the road coming to an end for Neil Walker but I don’t expect to see his name on the transactions wire today. Getting Torres back might be the single greatest “acquisition” the Yankees make this month. The Yankees have done a much better job winning with Gleyber’s name in the lineup than not so his presence is tremendous for the team.
Today is a great day for a Yankees victory. Cessa, please make it happen. Go Yankees!