After the 2020 season, the New York Yankees had no reason to believe that Zack Britton would falter in the back of their enclosure. After finishing the shortened season with a 1.89 ERA, the team even took their 2022 contract option, preventing him from stepping down.
Sadly, in the middle of spring training, Britton was diagnosed with a splinter of bone in her elbow, requiring surgery. Upon his return in June, he posted by far his worst numbers since moving to the full-time bullpen in 2014. In September, the left-hander went under the knife again to remove more bone chips; Soon after, the team announced that he had in fact also had an injured UCL and had Tommy John surgery.
While the future 34-year-old is signed until next season, he will spend most if not all of his rehabilitation. It looks like Britton’s Yankee career may be over.
Statistics 2021: 22 games, 18.1 IP, 5.89 ERA, 5.46 FIP, 5.00 xFIP, 7.9 K / 9, 6.9 BB / 9, -0.2 fWAR
Status of the 2022 contract: Salary of $ 14 million, under contract until 2023
Britton’s long journey as one of baseball’s top relievers ended with a thud this year. To be fair, elbow injuries have obviously been a factor all season, but how much his 2021 numbers stand out from his previous seasons really stands out. He gave up more than three more steps per set this year than in 2020, which could certainly be attributed to elbow pain affecting his release point.
The same goes for Britton’s home run rate of 1.0 HR / 9, by far the highest of his career. Yes, he had a very limited innings sample in 2021, but his advanced numbers don’t suggest he was unlucky. If he can recover properly from his surgeries, he may be able to return to his old form, but that’s one thing that’s hard to count on.
For the Yankees as a whole, Britton’s absence as a solid option in the eighth inning had ripple effects for the rest of the box, including Aroldis Chapman. When the closest went through terrible patches, Britton failed to intervene (especially in the game Field of Dreams). In fact, the situation may have indirectly led to Brian Cashman’s acquisition of Clay Holmes of Pittsburgh, who seemed dominant in New York City and could play the role Britton once played in the bullpen in 2022.
As relievers tend to need less time to keep up with Tommy John than newbies, it’s possible Britton will return in late 2022, but that’s not something the front office can count on at all – a backhand, running after the procedure, and it will. must enter free agency after missing most of both seasons. It’s not a good place, and Yankees fans can feel for him after the excellent performances he has had for the team since his trade to Baltimore in 2018.
Still, the Yankees may not want to offer him a contract after 2022, even if it is for far less than the $ 14 million he will earn in rehab (which insurance should cover for New York). The 2021 season has shown how tight the American League is and the importance of every player on the team performing at the highest level. So the 2021 season could be an unfortunately sour hat on what was a good tenure in New York for Zack Britton.
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