The robust relief-pitching market saw another name come off the board Saturday night as Zach Britton agreed to a deal to return to the Yankees.For New York, Britton's return strengthens the club's already deep bullpen. But what will it mean for the rest of the free-agent relief market?Britton became the
The robust relief-pitching market saw another name come off the board Saturday night as Zach Britton agreed to a deal to return to the Yankees.
For New York, Britton's return strengthens the club's already deep bullpen. But what will it mean for the rest of the free-agent relief market?
Britton became the latest reliever to cash in this offseason, the fifth to land a deal worth at least $23 million. The lefty agreed to three guaranteed years and $39 million, though his contract includes two interesting possibilities following the 2020 season.
First, the Yankees can lock in Britton for 2022 at $14 million, bringing the total money guaranteed to $53 million. If the club decides not to trigger that fourth year, Britton can then opt out to become a free agent, forgoing the $13 million guaranteed for 2021.
So while Britton will earn between $26 million and $53 million in the market's most recent deal, the biggest question in the relief market remains this: What will happen with Craig Kimbrel?
Kimbrel was reportedly seeking a six-year deal worth at least $100 million when the offseason began, though it appears abundantly clear that the seven-time All-Star will have to settle for less than that.
Then again, the terms of Kimbrel's next deal might be the least of his concerns.
Despite Kimbrel's standing as the best available relief arm and the fact that several teams remain in need of bullpen help, very few have shown a willingness to spend the type of money it will take to sign Kimbrel, who was hoping to exceed Albertin Chapman's record five-year, $86 million contract for the biggest deal signed by a closer.
The Phillies and Cardinals were two clubs believed to be interested in Kimbrel this offseason, but both have filled late-inning needs with the signings of Player Page for David Robertson and Andrew Miller, respectively. The Braves -- another rumored suitor -- don't appear to have the desire to spend big for a closer, making Atlanta a long shot for a reunion.
The one team that seems most likely to sign Kimbrel is the one that indicated early in the offseason that they would not pursue him: the Red Sox.
Although Kimbrel was the closer for Boston's World Series championship team this past fall, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski seemed content to let the right-hander walk away as a free agent, looking elsewhere for bullpen help.
Robertson, Miller, Britton and Adam Ottavino seemed like logical alternatives for the Red Sox, but now that three of them are signed -- not to mention other closing options including Jeurys Familia, Joakim Soria and Joe Kelly, who left Boston for a three-year deal with the Dodgers -- the quality choices are dwindling.
Ottavino should command a deal in the same general range as Miller and Robertson, but if Dombrowski didn't pay for one of the other relievers, it seems unlikely he would do so for Ottavino, whose track record is less accomplished.
According to sources, Boston has been monitoring Kimbrel's market all offseason, hoping it would fall to the point where the Sox could bring the closer back at a price more palatable to Dombrowski. Britton's signing makes that possibility more realistic, as Ottavino heads a late-inning relief list that includes Kelvin Herrera, Cody Allen, Bud Norris, Brad Brach and Justin Wilson.
As for Ottavino, sources indicate that the Yankees remain engaged with his representatives. New York -- which, even after re-signing Britton, is still looking to fill the hole left by Robertson's departure -- could sign Ottavino as well, adding him into the mix with Britton, Chad Green, Dellin Betances and Chapman, bolstering what may already be the strongest bullpen unit in the Majors.
The Rangers are also interested in Ottavino, a source said, while the White Sox and Rockies have also been linked to the righty in several reports.
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.