Free agent reliever Zack Britton held a throwing session for interested teams last week, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. The veteran southpaw is looking to rebound after a mostly lost final season with the Yankees.
Britton was one of the sport’s best late-game weapons during his peak with the Orioles and Yankees. His 2016 season with Baltimore — 67 innings with a 0.54 ERA and an 80% ground-ball percentage — was among the best ever by a reliever. While Britton unsurprisingly never replicated that kind of historic pace, he remained a dominant force through 2020. Between moving to the bullpen full-time in 2014 and the end of the shortened season, he worked to a 1.84 ERA with an eye-popping 76.2% grounder rate over a seven-year stretch.
Things began to go downhill in 2021, however. Britton battled injuries and was limited to 18 1/3 innings across 22 appearances. He managed a career-worst 5.89 ERA with nearly as many walks as strikeouts. That September, Britton went for surgery to remove bone chips from his throwing elbow. While he was under the knife, doctors examined his UCL and determined the ligament also needed repair. That was a far more consequential development, with Tommy John surgery keeping him out for almost all of the 2022 campaign.
Britton did manage to return to the mound at the tail end of last season. He was clearly not back in form. He walked six of the nine batters he faced while recording just two outs in three games. His trademark sinker averaged 92.6 MPH, well below its 94-95 MPH range from 2018-20. The Yankees promptly shut him back down for the season, calling the issue shoulder fatigue.
Needless to say, that wasn’t the kind of platform year the 35-year-old had in mind. A signing team would be rolling the dice on a bounceback, hopeful of installing an elite grounder specialist into high-leverage work. Britton’s recent injury issues put him behind the market’s top group of free agent left-handed relievers like Andrew Chafin, Matt Moore and Will Smith — all of whom somewhat surprisingly remain unsigned.
The Mets are the only team that has been publicly tied to Britton thus far in the offseason. New York skipper Buck Showalter is obviously plenty familiar with the veteran hurler from their time in Baltimore. Heyman again notes the Mets are involved in the market for Britton in their search for a left-handed bullpen arm, one that also has Chafin on their radar.