Zack Britton will cost the New York Yankees $14 million in 2022 … and he won’t throw a single pitch.
The left-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in September after a nagging elbow issue saw him put forth the worst campaign of his career. The offseason procedure he underwent to remove a bone chip from his elbow clearly did little to solve the larger issue.
Last offseason, coming off the shortened 2020, Britton had a tremendous year and the Yankees needed to make a decision on his future. If they didn’t pick up the veteran’s option for 2022, then Britton would be able to elect free agency when the 2020 season officially ended.
It was either risk letting Britton go or lock him in for a two-year, $27 million contract. The latter seemed like a no-brainer. Until it wasn’t.
Now, heading into a crucial offseason, Britton is occupying a spot on the 40-man roster, which is a problem since the Yankees need to clear spots before Nov. 19 in order to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft.
Releasing Britton has to be among the bigger moves under consideration, right?
Are the Yankees going to release … or, wait … trade Zack Britton?
OR can general manager Brian Cashman get creative in the next week? Maybe he contacts some teams with lower payrolls that are willing to absorb a $14 million hit to the competitive balance tax if a top prospect is attached in some sort of trade? Like we mentioned, the Yankees need to clear spots on the 40-man in order to make room for newcomers and protect more valuable prospects.
Right now, the 40-man is full. But when you factor in guys expected to be non-tendered (Clint Frazier and Miguel Andújar), those expected to be outright released/optioned (Nick Nelson and maybe Chris Gittens?), and others who might be traded (Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Luke Voit, Domingo Germán, Yoendrys Gomez), even more space would be available. But not all of those are set in stone. We’re not sure what’ll happen.
For the sake of argument, let’s say the Yankees, before they make all of their moves ahead of next Friday to determine which prospects they’ll protect, have a good idea of who might be at risk of being exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. Perhaps one or two of those guys, instead of being lost for nothing, are attached to Britton in a trade? Again, we’re unsure who it might be, but it’s a shrewd way for the Yankees to get even more money off the books when they’re hopefully gearing up the spend a ton. Every little bit helps.
If that’s not viable, though, Britton has to be released to give the Yankees more flexibility. If he’s not returning in 2022, there’s no need for his presence on the roster. His Yankee career is all but officially over.