Wednesday, February 8, 2023

2x All-Star Closer Would be Perfect In Cubs Bullpen

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I was reading Ken Rosenthal’s latest article last night and although there was no mention of the Cubs (what the hell!!!) there was one name he brought up that caught my attention. A familiar pitcher to Cubs fans, left-handed reliever Zack Britton.



All right, calm down and put down your pitchforks. Let’s talk this out for a bit.

Britton, who will be 35-years-old in about three weeks, missed almost the entire 2022 season with the Yankees as he was coming back from Tommy John surgery that took place in September of 2021. I know, I know, getting another injured pitcher, but it’s not like Tommy John surgery is the final nail in the coffin for a pitcher’s career. If anything, guys come back stronger after undergoing the elbow procedure.

Zack Britton is Healthy

The Yankees activated Britton a couple weeks prior the postseason and he pitched in three games before getting shut down because of shoulder fatigue. Probably pushed it too hard to get back on the mound, but according to Rosenthal, Britton is good to go for 2023.

Via The Athletic.

The good news: Britton, a free agent, has started his normal offseason throwing program and should be a full go in spring training. He is seeking a one-year deal as he approaches his 35th birthday on Dec. 22, and teams figure to be intrigued. Britton had a 1.90 ERA in his first two seasons with the Yankees before his elbow trouble began in 2021.

Cubs Prior Success With Veteran Relievers

An older reliever? Coming back from Tommy John surgery? Has a long track record of success? Could be signed to a one-year contract? Look no further than last offseason, when the Cubs signed David Robertson, who rebounded nicely in Chicago and was eventually traded to the Phillies.

I know Cubs fans are apprehensive nowadays with the new regime that’s led by Jed Hoyer. I get it. He has to earn your trust back after so many years of this team not signing a premiere free agent, but you also can’t ignore the good things that have come with a new group of people running things. The Cubs’ pitching infrastructure is leaps and bounds ahead of what it was just a few years ago and the team has a solid run of signing mid-to-low-tier free agent relievers and getting a lot out of them.

And the thing with Britton, obviously he’s only seeking a one-year deal because he wants to rebuild his value for one last big contract, is that we’re not talking about a guy who was only good 5-6 years ago. Britton re-signed with the Yankees heading into the 2019 season and he’s continued to be an elite reliever in a tough environment.

Zack Britton Career Stats

(became full-time reliever in 2014)

2014: 71 games, 1.65 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 76.1 IP, 62 K, 23 BB, 37 saves
2015: 64 games, 1.92 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 65.2 IP, 79 K, 14 BB, 36 saves
2016: 69 games, 0.54 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 67 IP, 74 K, 17 BB, 47 saves
2017: 38 games, 2.89 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 37.1 IP, 29 K, 18 BB, 15 saves
2018: 41 games, 3.10 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 40.2 IP, 34 K, 21 BB, 7 saves
2019: 66 games, 1.91 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 61.1 IP, 53 K, 32 BB, 3 saves
2020: 20 games, 1.89 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 19 IP, 16 K, 7 BB, 8 saves
2021: 22 games, 5.89 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 18.1 IP, 16 K, 14 BB, 1 save

Zack Britton Injury History

Britton first had injury issues during the 2017 season, making two trips to the injured list because of forearm tightness. However, when he returned he was getting the job done. Unfortunately, Britton didn’t pitch for the Orioles again until June 12, 2018, after suffering an achilles injury in December 2017. But once again he came back and was good on the mound. The Yankees traded for him and Britton recorded a 2.88 ERA in 25 appearances with New York to finish the season.

From 2016-18, Britton posted a 1.86 ERA, the lowest mark among all MLB pitchers with at least 100 IP.

In 2021, Britton had arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow after a bone chip was discovered on an MRI. He returned in mid-June, but eventually had Tommy John surgery a few months later.

Zack Britton Fits Cubs Bullpen Needs

The biggest selling point to me is that if you’re the Cubs, you’re only taking a one-year risk. If you sign Britton and he’s still not fully back and continues to struggle, then you say oh well, better luck with someone else next year. The reward could be so high with him, though, coming in and bringing a reliever David Ross can trust late in games. Nothing against the pitchers currently on the Cubs’ roster, but man there’s not a lot of proven guys in the bullpen.

So, a one-year contract with some incentives built in for Zack Britton? Yes, please!

Don’t miss out on the latest Pinwheels And Ivy Podcast for more offseason talk.

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