The Yankees have acquired left-hander Zach Britton from the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles for three prospects, a trade that will bolster New York’s bullpen for the stretch run.
Right-hander Dillon Tate is going to the Orioles along with left-hander Josh Rogers and right-hander Cody Carroll. The teams announced the deal Tuesday night.
The 30-year-old Britton will serve as a setup man for closer Aroldis Chapman, joining David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Chasen Shreve, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder and Adam Warren in an already strong bullpen.
“You’ve got to go into a new team and earn your role, especially with the guys they have over there,” Britton said. “They’ve got some guys who are doing really well. I’m just going to try to fit in. Right now, I’m just excited to get on a winning team and hopefully do some good things.”
As word leaked out about the deal, the Yankees expressed excitement over the new addition.
“I think he’s one of the best relievers in the game,” Chapman said through a translator. “Having the opportunity to add somebody like that with so much talent would be very helpful.”
Britton is eligible to become a free agent after this season, which makes him a summer rental for the Yankees in their pursuit of first-place Boston in the AL East.
He began the season on the disabled list after tearing his right Achilles tendon in December. He made his debut on June 12 and has appeared in 16 games, going 1-0 with a 3.45 ERA and four saves. He has not allowed a run in his past eight appearances, allowing just three hits over eight innings.
“Zach in July, looks like he’s back to his old self,” said Dan Duquette, the Orioles vice-president of baseball operations. “The fact that his velocity increased, the command of his pitches increased, the sink on his fastball increased and the results were back to the norm that he established for himself a couple years ago was vital for the club being able to trade the contract.”
In 2016, Britton was exceptional. He was 2-1 with a 0.54 ERA and 47 saves in 47 chances. He converted an AL-record 60 consecutive save opportunities from Oct. 1, 2015, to last Aug. 21. Over his eight-year career, all with the Orioles, Britton is 30-22 with a 3.22 ERA and 139 saves.
The Yankees will be responsible for more than a third of his US$12-million salary this year. New York began the season with a US$179-million payroll for purposes of luxury tax, which left the team room to add salaries and remain under US$197-million threshold.
Britton was the third closer traded this month, following deals that sent Brad Hand from San Diego to Cleveland and Jeurys Familia from the New York Mets to Oakland. He gives the Yankees insurance should Chapman be further slowed by the tendinitis in his left knee that has bothered him this season.
“When you bring in somebody like him, it gives you the opportunity to rotate and divide the workload,” Chapman said.
Britton was drafted by the Orioles in 2006 and worked his way up through the team’s minor-league system before landing in the big leagues in 2011.
“It’s been a great 12 years,” he said. “There are so many things from baseball to getting married to having kids. It all happened with this organization, so it will forever be in my heart, and hopefully it’s not the last time I play here. Hopefully, sometime down the road I can come back here and maybe finish it out.”
Baltimore is in full-scale sell mode as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. The last-place Orioles traded all-star shortstop Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers last week and are seeking buyers for centre fielder Adam Jones and reliever Brad Brach, both eligible for free agency after the World Series.
“We decided with the Manny trade we were going to set off in a different direction so we could be competitive with these super teams in the American League East,” Duquette said. “And we are going to look at all the options.”
Tate, 24, was selected by Texas with the fourth pick over all in the 2015 amateur draft and was traded to the Yankees the following year in the deal that brought Carlos Beltran to the Rangers. Tate is 5-2 with a 3.37 ERA in 15 starts this season for double-A Trenton of the Eastern League, striking out 75 and walking 25 in 82⅔ innings.
“I guess he’s probably the headliner, or the most publicized player that we’re picking up in this deal,” Duquette said.
Rogers, also 24, is 6-8 with a 3.95 ERA this year for the triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He was an 11th-round selection three years ago.
Carroll, 25, is 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA in 32 appearances for the RailRiders, striking out 55 and walking 18 in 41⅔ innings. Carroll was a 25th-round pick in 2015.
The Associated Press