The good news? It’s not limited to just lefties! Zack Britton will sadly miss the entire 2022 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September, since the expected recovery timetable is 12-15 months for pitchers. Wouldn’t count on him logging a single inning unless there’s a miracle and he can appear in the postseason.
Fortunately, the New York Yankees addressed their need for lefty arms last year when they traded for Wandy Peralta and Joely Rodriguez. Aroldis Chapman and Lucas Luetge represent two other options, so the bullpen isn’t exactly in dire need for another.
That helps general manager Brian Cashman if he’s going to attempt to replace Britton’s production despite the presence of those four veterans in addition to Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga, Clay Holmes and Albert Abreu (assuming he takes the next step in his development).
Then again, fans need to expect a trade of some sort to clear 40-man spots in order to make room for whatever additions that need to be made at first base, shortstop and elsewhere, so maybe one of those guys is part of a package and leaves a vacancy for a free agent signing.
For money alone, all of these could be had, and at varying prices. Perhaps some discounts aren’t out of the question due to age and some injury concerns.
If Cashman can get any of these relievers at his desired price, it’d go a long way in helping fill the void Britton’s absence will leave in 2022.
These 3 outside replacements for Zack Britton could help the Yankees.
3. Richard Rodriguez
Yankees fans lobbied for a Richard Rodriguez trade at last year’s deadline, but Cashman went with a cheaper option in Clay Holmes, who worked out just fine and is ready for a career year. Still, though, signing the former Pirate would give New York the necessary veteran presence and innings-eating ability that Britton offered.
Rodriguez has been tremendous for three out of the last four seasons after making his debut back in 2017. He positioned himself well with his second-best campaign ever, finishing with a 2.94 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 148 ERA+, 42 strikeouts and 14 saves in 64 games (64.1 innings) with the Pirates and Braves. The only blemish on his resume was a 4.04 FIP, the decline in strikeouts, and his exit velocity among the bottom 3% of the league, but that’s perhaps a little nit-picky.
Whatever he’s doing is working, regardless of what the peripherals tell us. He’s in the upper echelon of relievers in fastball spin rate and walk percentage. He limits baserunners. So what if he gets hit hard? So does Chad Green. It happens, especially when you’re a two-pitch reliever (four-seam fastball and slider).
Maybe Matt Blake would have a field day emphasizing the right-hander’s slider a bit more? He only threw it 14% of the time in 2021. Or maybe he’ll have him re-introduce his sinker or changeup? All we’re saying is that Rodriguez is far from a bad option to lengthen the bullpen.