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Acquisition of Zach Britton Bolsters An Already Potent Yankees Bullpen

The Baltimore Orioles continued their much-needed rebuild on Tuesday night. The team sent All-Star closer, Zach Britton, to the New York Yankees for three pitching prospects, Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll, and Josh Rogers. The trade comes days after the club sent superstar shortstop Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 5 players.

The Orioles had turned their attention to trading Britton almost immediately after trading Machado, and many teams who are inquiring on bullpen help took notice, with the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York Yankees all sending offers. The Yankees ultimately won the sweepstakes, bolstering their already potent bullpen with a deadly left-handed option to accompany Yankees’ closer, Aroldis Chapman.

Britton is two years removed from a monstrous 2016 campaign, which saw the southpaw finish fourth in the American League Cy Young voting. Formerly a starter, Britton made the transition to a reliever prior to the 2014 season, and he’s been one of the most dominant bullpen arms in the league ever since. Between 2014 and 2017, Britton has appeared in 242 games, posting an ERA of 1.61, racking up 135 saves in 246 and 1/3 innings of work, while striking out 244 batters and only allowing nine total home runs in that span. This includes his career-best 2016 season, where he converted all 47 save opportunities and boasted a 0.54 ERA in 69 games. His ERA+ of 803 in 2016 remains one of the best in baseball history.

However, during the off-season leading up to the 2018 campaign, Britton ruptured his Achilles tendon and was out until June 12th. While Britton had a rocky June where he compiled a 6.23 ERA, he has propelled back to his former self in July, as he has not allowed a run in seven appearances. The leading problem to his rocky June may belong to his decrease in velocity. He averaged just over 94 MPH, which is roughly two miles per hour lower than his usual 96 MPH velocity on his sinker. That problem fixed itself in July, as he is currently averaging 95–96 MPH.

( Charles Wenzelberg | N.Y. Post )

The acquisition of Britton gives the Yankees another deadly bullpen monster, which already consisted of the aforementioned Chapman, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, and A.J. Cole. The team also has Tommy Kahnle, who is with the team’s Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, who was acquired with Robertson at last season’s deadline.

For the Orioles, the rebuild has started nicely, and the pitching deprived farm system got even more of a boost, as all three prospects that went to Baltimore are pitching prospects. The package was headlined by the Yankees’ #9 prospect, Dillon Tate, the Yankees’ #15 prospect, Cody Carroll, and Josh Rogers, the lone left-handed prospect in the deal.

Dillon Tate ( Mike Axisa | Presswire )

Tate, 24, was the 4th overall selection by the Texas Rangers in the 2015 MLB Draft. A product of the University of California-Santa Barbara, the right-hander was traded to the Yankees in the Carlos Beltran trade during the 2016 trade deadline. With the Yankees, Tate has found a groove as a starter, reaching the team’s Double-A affiliate, the Trenton Thunder, where he pitched to a 3.38 ERA in 15 starts in 2018. Tate, who changed his mechanics with the Yankees, reaches 98 MPH on his fastball, with a two-seamer to accompany it to induce ground balls. Tate also throws a slider and a change-up, with the change-up having shown improvements, while his slider is lacking behind. Tate was blocked in New York’s system, but with Baltimore, he has a better chance to stay a starter.

Carroll, 25, was a 22nd round draft pick in the same draft as Tate, but unlike Tate, Carroll has been brought up as a reliever, not a starter. Carroll was a potent right-handed option out of the bullpen with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he pitched to a 2.38 ERA in 32 games. He has collected nine saves in 2018 in 41 and 2/3 innings, with 55 strikeouts. Carroll boasts a fastball that has a grade of 75 on MLB Pipeline’s scouting report, as it sits around 96–98 MPH and has reached 101 MPH, as well as a slider that combines slider velocity and curveball depth. He also throws a splitter, but the pitch is only primarily used against left-handed hitters. The Orioles could call-up Carroll in September to give the already ravaged bullpen some stability.

The last piece in the trade, Rogers, was the Yankees’ 11th round selection in the 2015 draft. The left-hander pitched in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s rotation prior to the trade to Baltimore, where he pitched to a 3.95 ERA in 19 starts, with 83 strikeouts in 109 and 1/3 innings. Rogers does not overpower hitters with his fastball, as it sits around 88–91 MPH with mild sink to it, but he does have a curveball and change-up that generates a lot of weak contact. Despite being brought up as a starter in New York’s system, Rogers could have better success in the bullpen with Baltimore as a long reliever, which could lead to a spike in his velocity.

Acquiring Britton shows that the Yankees mean business in the tight race atop the American League East, as the team has been close to the Boston Red Sox in the standings for most of the season. Despite sitting five games behind Boston as of now, the Yankees are primed for a deep playoff run, as the team holds the first Wild Card by five games. As for Baltimore, the farm system has improved immensely, as the team has inserted seven new prospects to their minor league system since the All-Star Game. The team could still be active in the next week, as the team could be looking for suitors for Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.


Featured Photo: Ashley Varela | NBC Sports

Tyler Jennings

Hi, I'm Tyler, one of the many writers here at Diamond Digest. A Red Sox fan at heart, I live in Raleigh, NC and currently work full-time, although I plan on a return to college in 2019. I have previously been featured on MLB Daily Dish, Hardball Scoop, and Baseball Essential. I am pursuing a career in Sports Journalism, as well as an internship at Baseball America. Outside of that, I ran Cross Country in High School and College and live with a stutter. I plan to bring unbiased baseball coverage to DD, with a primary focus on the MLB Draft, as well as general MLB news.

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