There is plenty to unpack about Zach Britton now that he is packing his bags and becoming a Yankee. But what the Yankees did on Tuesday night, making this deal for Britton and making sure that neither the Astros nor the Red Sox got him, is address a strength of
There is plenty to unpack about Zach Britton now that he is packing his bags and becoming a Yankee. But what the Yankees did on Tuesday night, making this deal for Britton and making sure that neither the Astros nor the Red Sox got him, is address a strength of their team -- the bullpen they already have -- the same as they would have been doing that if they'd added more stick by getting Manny Machado.
Because as you analyze this deal, here's the deal on the relievers the Yankees already have: Their record with a lead after the sixth inning this season is already 49-3. Maybe it would have been 50-2 with Britton. Or even 52-0. Maybe they won't lose a lead after the sixth the rest of the way. But does that make them better than the Red Sox the rest of the way, and keep them out of a Wild Card Game?
One of the smartest and funniest Yankee fans I know sent me this email on Tuesday night once the Britton-to-Yankees trade became official:
"With all of these relievers, they can yank Severino even quicker in this fall's Wild Card Game. Looie doesn't even have to give up a run. Two guys get on base, the pen can take it the rest of the way!"
The same guy has been telling me all week, as the Britton-to-Yankees rumor began to pick up heat and momentum, that he thought this would be a panic move by Brian Cashman because of the way the Yankees have fallen behind the Red Sox in July (even though practically the whole month of August for the Yankees, around four games at Fenway Park with the Red Sox next week, is one comfy spot place to land). I don't think Cashman panicked here. He traded for strength from strength, which means his suddenly deep farm system.
Still: It's worth remembering when I raised the subject of the Yankees going for Britton in a column here last weekend, I had asked Cashman if he'd ever made a deal for a player to keep that player from going to a competitor.
"Nope," he said.
Now he has. It's not the only reason he picked up the true star reliever available at this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline. I actually believe that if the Yankees are still playing baseball in the middle of October that Britton, and not Albertin Chapman, might be their closer. But the Astros, who needed Britton the most, don't get Britton now. Neither do the Red Sox, who could have used Britton almost as much. And a deep, tough, big-arm Yankees bullpen gets deeper, tougher, adds one more top reliever.
What is the real bottom line here? Aaron Boone, rookie manager, is the one who will have to figure it out with Britton, Chapman, Dellin Betances, Player Page for David Robertson, Chad Green, Adam Warren and Jonathan Holder. There are so many guys out there you sometimes expect the bullpen door to open at Yankee Stadium and "Enter Sandman" to start playing and the great Mariano Rivera to come jogging out.
Whether Cashman gets himself a starting pitcher, his manager now becomes even more of the focus with the 2018 Yankees than he was when Cashman hand-picked him to replace Joe Girardi, the skipper who managed the Yankees to their one World Series title since 2000, and had them within a win of going back to the Fall Classic last year. It is still worth wondering what would have happened if Girardi had made it to the Series, and whether or not the change still would have been made. More than a half-century ago, the Yankees lost a seven-game World Series to the Cardinals and fired Yogi Berra as their manager after that, and hired the guy -- Johnny Keane -- whose team had won in 1964.
Cashman, who has brilliantly positioned the Yankees to make the run they made last year and the one they will try to make this year, made a big bet on himself by replacing Girardi. But he made just as big a bet on Boone, who had never managed anywhere and came to this high-stakes moment with the Yanks from the broadcast booth.
"If you can add good players to your team, that's a good thing," Boone said on Tuesday night after the Yankees defeated the Rays.
So the Yankees now do a great big Yankees thing and add someone in Britton who, even if he doesn't become the closer, could be as important, maybe even in the middle innings, as Andrew Miller (former Yankee) was two years ago when the Indians went all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. In the process, the Yanks add to a bullpen that has three closers already (Betances had 12 saves two years ago; Robertson once succeeded Rivera as Yankee closer).
So Cashman made his move Tuesday night. Now the moves everybody will watch will be made by his manager, one he didn't hire just to start running in relievers in an American League Wild Card Game. No, Boone was hired to win at least one more game than Girardi did. Then four more after that.
Now Boone gets to try with four closers, because the Yankees get one more. The Astros and Red Sox don't. Case closed.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.