Zach Britton


Keidel: Yankees' Trade For Britton Makes Perfect Sense

They Can Shorten Games Even More, Helping Rotation

Jason Keidel
July 25, 2018 - 12:44 pm

So the Yankees finally bagged a pitcher -- a former All-Star, no less. 

Just not the one you expected. 

After Yanks fans have paced around the rumor mill like expectant fathers, general manager Brian Cashman delivered a pitcher. Orioles reliever Zach Britton is migrating about 200 miles up I-95 to wrap another arm around the strongest bullpen in baseball. In return, Cashman dipped into his bottomless farm system and will send three pitchers -- Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll and Josh Rogers -- back to Baltimore. 

It's not the kind of splash many Bombers fans, who want a high-end starter, anticipated. But in the absence of fantasy deals for Jacob deGrom, the Yanks did the next best thing. Britton, 30, is in his absolute prime and gives the Yanks' bullpen a quality lefty. 

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Why add logs to the most fiery bullpen in the sport? Because it makes perfect sense. If the Yankees don't get Jacob deGrom or Chris Archer or any other front-end starting pitcher, they will need a conga line of relievers to shorten the load of the starters they have. Besides, the Yankees came within a whisker of the World Series last year, and this club is clearly better. 

Masahiro Tanaka just threw a cool, complete-game shutout. Luis Severino is easily a Cy Young contender. CC Sabathia keeps pitching under his age and past his wage. Sure, you'd like one more starter not named Sonny Gray, Luis Cessa or the recentlydemoted Domingo German. But even with back-end uncertainty in their rotation, the Yankees are 64-35 and would be in first place (or a virtual tie with Houston) in any other division except the AL East, where Boston (71-32) has lost just three of its last 18 games. 

Britton has posted a pedestrian 3.45 ERA, but he's also yielded just three hits in his last eight appearances while coming back from an Achilles injury. Just two years ago, Britton posted an AL-best 47 saves and a 0.54 ERA while making his second consecutive All-Star Game. And the Yanks gave up no prospects of real consequence to get him. 

The MLB postseason has become more and more a lesson in bullpen fire and flexibility. If you can consistently get three innings out of your bullpen, you lighten the burden on your rotation. And for those who insist you need to beat Boston and avoid that ever-perilous one-game playoff, the Yankees helped themselves in either scenario. 

If the Yanks have to play, say, Seattle in the wild-card game, then they will need as many nimble pitching limbs as they can get. If they somehow leapfrog Boston and win the division, their playoff approach doesn't change. Young Yankees fans are so pampered they think Cashman can simply flex his wallet and seduce some club into burping up an ace, giving them that microscopic edge over the Red Sox. It doesn't work that way anymore. 

Sometimes the answer to beating your rival is to just play better with the parts you have. Only in the Bronx will you find moody fans of a team 30 games over .500. Boston is playing historically well, reaching 70 wins faster than they have in any season since 1946. Sometimes you just tip your cap to the other team. And then you play better and beat them. It's not like the Yankees haven't overcome a significant, second-half deficit to overtake the Boston Red Sox before. The problem is fans under 35 have no idea how or when that happened. 

Cashman has been a corporeal piñata for too long. He's done a heck of a job piecing this team together, and did a good thing Tuesday night. Britton is an excellent addition to an excellent team. And for those in breathless indignity over the deal, try to also remember there are still six days left until the trade deadline. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel