Zack Britton’s trying 2021 season still has not come to an end, and he cannot feel good about the latest news he delivered to the media.
The New York Yankees‘ reliever announced he will undergo elbow surgery next week, and it will likely feature the removal of a bone chip. However, it’s more complicated than that, and it kind of puts his career (as well as the team’s financial situation) in limbo.
According to the MRI results, there’s no clear structural damage to his UCL, but surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache plans to look at Britton’s UCL during the procedure to ensure nothing is wrong. If something is wrong, then we can expect the left-hander to undergo Tommy John surgery as well.
Going under the knife is difficult enough. Going under and not knowing what the outcome will be? Terrifying. But we don’t need to tell you that.
Soon enough, Britton will be able to put this chapter of his baseball career behind him, which has been a nightmare for all parties involved.
We don’t have to go through it all in detail, but in this order it went COVID diagnosis, elbow surgery, elbow soreness and slight setback, hamstring injury, elbow injury, and second elbow surgery. In between all of that was Britton’s career-worst season as a pitcher.
Yankees reliever Zack Britton will undergo surgery on his elbow again.
Just a couple weeks ago, Britton blew a save in the Field of Dreams game against the Chicago White Sox, and after that he told manager Aaron Boone he no longer deserves to be handling ninth-inning duties. In 18.1 innings of work, the veteran owned a 5.89 ERA and 1.69 WHIP. He only tossed four clean frames all year.
Britton’s situation, regardless of the severity of his surgery, is difficult for the Yankees from a payroll standpoint, too. He’ll make $14 million next season, but coming off two elbow surgeries, how effective will he be? How many team will want to trade for him if the Yankees look to go that route? (The easy answer is probably zero unless New York eats a lot of that salary.)
If he undergoes Tommy John surgery, his $14 million salary is a sunk cost. The Yankees are on the hook and there’s no way to avoid having that figure affecting dollars up against the luxury tax.
There is a best-case scenario, however. If Britton’s surgery is minor, he can spend the offseason rehabbing, building up his strength, and getting back on track. He probably won’t rediscover his former elite self, but any role eating innings in the bullpen will be valuable for a team currently re-tooling that unit.
But we won’t know anything for at least another week. Seems like a classic Yankees’ injury situation.