Free-agent lefty Zack Britton is hosting yet another workout for teams seeking bullpen help, as first reported by Mike Puma of the New York Post (via Twitter). The Mets will be in attendance, he adds. They’ll be joined by around seven other clubs, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic adds.
It’s at least the third time that Britton has auditioned for clubs this offseason. He held a broad-reaching showcase back in January and a narrower workout for six teams almost one month ago to the day. That session — reportedly attended by the Mets, Angels, Cubs, Giants, Rangers and Dodgers — either didn’t produce the big league offer Britton is said to be seeking or didn’t produce one that he found to his liking.
The Mets’ interest in Britton will take center stage, given Edwin Diaz’s likely season-ending knee surgery and the fact that Britton, not long ago, was considered to be perhaps baseball’s best reliever — just as Diaz is now. Previously, the Mets had been focused on bullpen help that had minor league options, not wanting to limit the flexibility of their relief corps with another veteran addition. Diaz’s inevitable shift to the 60-day injured list could perhaps change that calculus.
Of course, it can’t emphasized enough that it’s been several years since Britton was in peak form. The now-35-year-old lefty had his elbow scoped in March 2021, which cost him the first two months of that season. He returned in June but quickly went down with a hamstring strain that sidelined him another few weeks. The return from that balky hamstring proved similarly short-lived, as an elbow strain again sent him to the injured list.
In Sept. 2021, Britton underwent surgery to address that second elbow issue. The hope was that, like the arthroscopic procedure in March, removing some bone spurs would alleviate the issue. Instead, surgeons determined that Britton’s ulnar collateral ligament had suffered enough damage that a Tommy John surgery was required. He missed almost all of the 2022 season but did make an improbable late-September return. However, that amounted to just three games, during which time Britton walked six of nine batters faced before going back to the injured list yet again. He averaged 92.8 mph on his fastball in that time — nowhere close to the 94.9 mph he averaged during his last healthy season in 2020 (and even further from the 96.9 mph on his sinker at its peak).
From 2014-20, Britton notched a superhuman 1.84 ERA in 367 1/3 frames. He punched out 24% of his opponents against a 9.2% walk rate in that time, and Britton’s 76.2% ground-ball rate over that period cemented him as the best ground-ball pitcher since 2002, when batted-ball data of that nature began being carefully tracked. Britton posted a laughable 80% ground-ball rate in 2016 and was at 79.1% in 2015 and 77.2% in 2019 — the three highest single-season marks ever posted by a qualified pitcher.
It stands to reason that the group of clubs watching Britton throw this time around will be different in composition. Beyond the fact that there are as many as eight teams turning up this time, each of the Angels (Matt Moore), Rangers (Will Smith) and Cubs (Michael Fulmer) have all signed relievers since that time. The Cubs were still open to adding a lefty even after signing Fulmer, so they could remain in play for Britton, but both Anaheim and Texas are less clear fits following their deals with Moore and Smith.
With just two weeks until Opening Day, it’s unlikely that Britton could sign with a team and be ready to pitch by the time the season gets underway. The extent to which he’s built up isn’t known, but given that this is his third workout for teams since January, he’s clearly been on a throwing program for some time now. Even if he’s not ready come March 30, it’s feasible that he could join a big league bullpen at some point in April, health permitting.
deGrom Texas Ranger
Still not getting his expected 9 MM AAV… he can join Profar and play foreign baseball
I’m not sure what you mean by Profar playing “foreign baseball.” He didn’t sign with another league. He was playing for the Netherlands in the WBC. Maybe you are thinking of Trevor Bauer who just signed in Japan.
deGrom Texas Ranger
No. I mean he has no MLB deal (Profar). Britton also has no job in his Hand. Profar can stay there or find another country since the US hates him.
Don’t think anyone in the US should be hating on the young man. The problem is that he’s probably no better choice to complete a roster than a prospect who will make major league minimum salary, has more upside and can be controlled for 5 years or so.
Why does the U.S.hate Profar? You sound like a 12 year old.
It was just a galactically awful decision for Profar to leave the Padres.
deGrom Texas Ranger
Exactly! I’m annoyed since he was a consensus #1 prospect who didn’t perform and once even expected to be traded so he could “be a starting shortstop” on another team. That and the ill-advised opt-out make him despicable for being so entitled.
I’d assume that plenty of teams have made him offers, they just weren’t for as much as the option he declined… so he probably turned those down as well. If he’s unwilling to go the Gurriel/Iglesias route at this point then yeah, maybe he may need to look over seas. Unfortunately for him, last time I checked, all NPB and KBO teams already have the full amount of foreign born players that they are allowed to have rostered.
Mets could use another lefty
Britton, not long ago, was considered to be perhaps baseball’s best reliever
That was in 2016. I know it is subjective, but terms of major league baseball, that’s a heck of a long time.
Man this really bad news for Mets fans. I would imagine most of you are all saying it’s WS or bust with all the money that has been spent. What to do from here? Temporary patchwork with some retread, i.e. Britton who will only be a shadow of what Diaz could do? Do you have promising inhouse replacement? What about a trade? His brother from the Reds? You know you would have to overpay, especially now. Would you as a fan being willing to pay that price from your minors and if so who would you be willing to give up.? The Reds will not part with him unless they are blown away. He’s young, controllable for years and looking like a budding ace much like his brother is now. Alexis Diaz would seem to be a natural fit with the Mets on many different levels, again especially now.
I hope the Mets can sign Britton, would be help in light of Diaz’s injury, a real shame. Other free agents are hurt in spring training like Rodin ( not an accident) for the Yankees, not as great though. Will miss hearing Tommy trumpet but he will be back. Keeping him and family in our thoughts and prayers. The Mets are good enough to ride this out. LG Mets….
Share with us your prayer for Diaz word for word please.
He doesn’t pray. It’s just a way overused fake catch phrase that people use just because everyone else does.