The New York Yankees bullpen will have to get by without arguably their best reliever for probably the first half of the season.
Zack Britton will have surgery on Wednesday to remove a bone chip from his pitching elbow. He’ll be shut down for 4-6 weeks and will then have to build himself back up to speed after coming along slowly this offseason thanks to a COVID-19 diagnosis in January.
But it could’ve been worse. It could always be worse. And the Yankees possess the offense and pitching depth to get by without the left-hander for the time being. When he comes back, life will just be that much better.
In the interim, how can the Yankees adjust in wake of the news? Should they bring someone else in? Give a spot to a non-roster invitee? Change up their plans for the pitching staff at the onset of the year?
What we do know is that the Yankees probably don’t have to make a significant move to address Britton’s absence. There’s no need to give up assets in a trade until you know you absolutely have to.
There’s a reason the Yankees swapped out Adam Ottavino and Jonathan Holder for Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson. Reliability and durability. They can make do at the moment.
But here are some pivots that can help them avoid taxing the bullpen while their best reliever is on the shelf.
3. Sign Shane Greene
Shane Greene, a former Yankees pitcher, is still a free agent.
We’re really not sure why, but no team given Shane Greene a contract. He was good in 2020, logging a 2.60 ERA and 1.12 WHIP across 27.2 innings of work. He’s largely been good since 2017. What gives?
The former Yankee could help fill the bullpen void with ease. He’s used to pitching in high-leverage situations and has proven to be effective on a contender. What’s the worst that could happen? At this point, the Yankees will just need someone to help eat innings. For the time being, guys like Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, O’Day and Wilson can eat up innings 7-9.
Greene can do that, too. Or he can be utilized for the fifth and sixth. He can pretty much be another hybrid option for Aaron Boone, which would give the team even more depth. Isn’t that what we need? Think about what the Dodgers did last year. Just about everyone in the bullpen was called upon to get important outs. Nobody had a defined role.
That won’t exactly be the case in New York, but it’d be nice if there were an arsenal of arms to choose from for innings 5-7 once Britton comes back.