The Yankees already possess perhaps the game’s premier bullpen, but they could nonetheless add to their relief corps in the coming weeks. The club’s among the teams interested in a pair of established lefty relievers – the Padres’ Brad Hand and the Orioles’ Zach Britton – Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets.
While Britton is the better known of the two, Hand has eclipsed him in value since his breakout 2016. Hand previously landed on the Yankees’ radar last July and looked like a strong bet to leave San Diego via trade, considering the Padres were nowhere near playoff contention. Instead, the Padres kept Hand and then inked him to an extension worth a guaranteed three years and $19.75MM over the winter. The deal also features a $10MM club option, which Hand’s employer will pick up if he continues at anything resembling his current pace.
Since 2016, Hand leads qualified relievers in innings (210) and has posted a 2.66 ERA with 11.83 K/9, 3.04 BB/9 and a 46.8 percent groundball rate. The 28-year-old is now in his second season a full-time closer, during which he has converted 24 of 28 save chances, but he’d work in a setup role with the Yankees because of closer Aroldis Chapman’s presence (though Chapman has battled left knee tendinitis since early May, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweets). He’d accompany Chapman to give the Yankees two lights-out southpaws and yet another tremendous option alongside setup men Chad Green, Dellin Betances, David Robertson and Jonathan Holder.
In addition to Chapman, Green, Betances, Robertson and Holder, New York has gotten terrific results from relievers Adam Warren and A.J. Cole this season. The team also has 2017 standout Tommy Kahnle on hand in the minors. It may not behoove the World Series-contending Yankees to meet the still-rebuilding Padres’ reportedly high asking price for Hand, then, especially given New York’s need to address its rotation and maybe even its first base situation during the next few weeks.
Contrary to Hand, Britton does not look like a top-end reliever at this point, nor is he controllable beyond this season. Since an incredible 2016 in which he compiled a .54 ERA in 67 innings, Britton has dealt with a decline in output and a ruptured Achilles. He returned from that injury, which he suffered over the winter, last month and has since allowed six earned runs (with just eight strikeouts against seven walks) in 10 1/2 frames and experienced a dip in velocity.
Along with his newfound performance issues, Britton comes with a high salary. He’s owed the balance of $12MM, and the Yankees could be wary of that given their desire to stay south of the $197MM competitive-balance tax threshold. They’re plenty familiar with the 30-year-old Britton, though, as he has spent his entire career with AL East rival Baltimore. The Orioles are far out of playoff contention and figure to sell off as many pending free agents as possible, including Britton, in the coming weeks.