The New York Yankees are moving closer to a trade to acquire All-Star reliever Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles, a person familiar with the discussions told ESPN.com Tuesday.
While talks have “intensified,” the source said no deal is yet in place. Multiple outlets have reported that pitcher Dillon Tate, who has a 5-2 record and a 3.38 ERA for the Yankees’ Double-A Trenton affiliate, would be the prime piece going back to New York in the trade.
Britton, 30, has amassed 139 saves for the Orioles since 2013. He is the top bullpen arm available on the market now that Kelvin Herrera, Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia have changed teams via trade since mid-June.
The Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are among several other clubs that have been pursuing Britton, who carried a streak of eight consecutive scoreless appearances into Tuesday night’s game against Boston. Britton ruptured his right Achilles during an offseason workout session and didn’t make his 2018 debut until June 12.
If the trade goes through, Britton would join Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, David Robertson and others in a New York bullpen that leads the majors with a 2.75 ERA and 448 strikeouts.
The Athletic first reported that the Yankees had emerged as the clear front-runner to acquire Britton
The Yankees had been seeking a starting pitcher upgrade, but recently turned their attention to the bullpen because they didn’t regard Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ and other available starters as enough of an upgrade on their current rotation.
The Orioles, who have a major-league worst 28-73 record, have embarked on a full-scale rebuild. They traded shortstop Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers last week for five minor leaguers and are weighing trade offers for Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Adam Jones, Brad Brach and other players in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
A former third round pick of the Orioles in 2006, Britton was drafted as a starter. After moving to the bullpen at the beginning of 2014, he emerged as one of the most dominant relievers in the majors, recording a sub-two ERA and 30-plus saves in three straight seasons.
In 2016, he went a perfect 47-for-47 in save opportunities, posted a 0.54 ERA, and finished fourth in the American League Cy Young balloting. Despite Britton’s regular season success that year, manager Buck Showalter famously decided against deploying his closer in extra innings during Baltimore’s wild card loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, instead opting for starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who surrendered the winning runs.
Over the last couple seasons, the 30-year old southpaw has struggled to stay healthy. In 2017, Britton served two separate stints on the disabled list with a left forearm strain. This past December, he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon that kept him sidelined for the first two and a half months of the season.
Since making his debut on June 12, Britton has a 3.45 ERA in 16 appearances, and has converted four of five save chances. After a rocky start, the eight-year veteran has been more effective recently, working eight consecutive scoreless outings. During that stretch, he’s allowed three hits over eight innings, striking out six and walking four.
Britton, who becomes a free agent after this season, is set to earn $12 million this year. With just over a third of the season left, Britton’s due about $4.5 million for the remainder of the season.
Information from ESPN’s Eddie Matz was used in this report.
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