Zach Britton joins stacked Yankees bullpen as Orioles trade closer for prospects

The Baltimore Orioles continued what’s expected to be an expansive firesale on Sunday, trading veteran closer Zach Britton to the Yankees for a package of pitching prospects headlined by former top-5 pick Dillon Tate.

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Britton, who will be a free agent after this season, has proven to be among baseball’s most dominant relievers when healthy. Since taking over as Baltimore’s closer in 2014, Britton has posted an incredible 1.72 ERA while collecting 139 saves and 257 strikeouts over 261 innings.

The deal was confirmed by both teams Tuesday night, with the Yankees receiving Britton and the Orioles receiving Tate, right-hander Cody Carroll and left-hander Josh Rogers.

The two-time All-Star Britton was a workhorse between 2014 and 2016, appearing in 71, 64 and 69 games respectively. In 2016, he posted a microscopic 0.54 ERA, which earned him a fourth-place finish in the AL Cy Young award balloting and a few MVP votes as well.

Britton battled several injury issues last season, which limited him to just 38 games. His bad luck continued in the season when he suffered an Achilles tear while working out. The injury prevented Baltimore from considering trading Britton over the winter. Britton has been slowly starting round back into form since his return on June 12, holding a 0.00 ERA with six strikeouts over seven innings during the month of July.

How will Zach Britton fit in the Yankees bullpen?

Britton is set to join what was an already stacked Yankees bullpen. New York’s bullpen is currently built around the quintet of Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Chad Green and Jonathan Holder. All five of those players have already pitched at least 40 innings and the highest ERA among them is Robertson’s 3.05 mark. As a whole, the Yankees bullpen leads MLB in ERA at 2.75 and strikeout rate at 31.5 percent.

Chapman is already the closer for the Yankees and since both he and Britton are left-handers, it’s difficult to see how Britton could get save opportunities barring a Chapman injury or fatigue issues. But that’s not much concern for the Yankees, who can now probably brag about the game being basically over if they have a lead after four innings.

It looks like Zach Britton is staying in the AL East. (AP Photo)
It looks like Zach Britton is staying in the AL East. (AP Photo)

What the Orioles got for Zach Britton

While Tate had a strong draft pedigree, it appears the Yankees managed to acquire Britton without parting with any of their top prospects.

Tate, ranked as the Yankees No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline, is the biggest name in the group headed to Baltimore. The right-handed pitcher was scratched from his start for the Yankees Double-A affiliate in Trenton on Sunday. Picked fourth overall by the Rangers in the 2015 MLB draft, Tate landed with the Yankees as the club’s return in the Carlos Beltran deal in 2016. In 107.2 innings for Trenton between 2017 and 2018, Tate holds a 3.34 ERA and 92 strikeouts.

Also headed south are Carroll and Rogers. The hard-throwing Carroll was ranked as the Yankees’ No. 15 prospect by MLB Pipeline, while Rogers is not in the team’s latest top 30. Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees might have faced a 40-man roster crunch had all three prospects stayed, which would have meant leaving some players exposed to the Rule 5 draft. Now with Britton on board, that is no longer a concern.

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