The Yankees face a number of big decisions this offseason, though one of their more immediate bits of business will be figuring out Zack Britton’s status for both the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Britton is two years into a three-year, $39MM deal that contains a $14MM club option for 2022, and a clause in the contract states that the Yankees have to decide whether or not to exercise that option now, rather than after the 2021 campaign. If the club option is declined, Britton can opt out of his contract and hit free agency this offseason.
More details are provided by Britton himself, in an e-mail to George A. King III of the New York Post. According to the left-hander, “the Yankees have until the third day following the end of the World Series” to exercise or decline the 2022 option. If they decline, Britton has until five days after the end of the World Series to decide whether or not to opt out or remain playing under his 2021 obligation.
“I have not had any discussions regarding my contract with the Yankees,” Britton said, adding that he will soon be touching base with his agent Scott Boras to discuss the situation.
Given that New York’s season only just ended last Friday, it perhaps isn’t surprising that the team hasn’t yet fully explored all of their offseason matters. It is also quite possible that in Britton’s case, the Yankees might not have much to discuss — the southpaw delivered another superb year, with a 1.89 ERA, 2.29 K/BB rate, 7.6 K/9, and elite 71.7% grounder rate, and zero home runs allowed over 19 innings of work.
Retaining Britton for the cost of $27MM over 2021-22 seems like a relatively easy yes for the team. One potential complication could be the Yankees’ overall payroll picture, should they decide that Britton’s salary could be better spent on other pressing issues, like re-signing DJ LeMahieu or adding to the rotation. But, as King notes, Britton was an important stabilizing force in a bullpen that had its share of inconsistency in both the regular season and in the playoffs.
On the off chance that the club option is declined, it’s probably also safe to assume that Britton would choose to opt out of his 2021 deal. Britton turns 33 in December, and he would be leaving $13MM on the table to enter one of the most unpredictable free agent markets of all time. The Yankees could also attach a qualifying offer to Britton, further impacting his market. Even with those obstacles, however, it’s quite easy to imagine Britton scoring more two years and $27MM considering his track record as one of the sport’s better relievers.