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The New York Yankees sport arguably the strongest, most dominant bullpen in baseball. Chad Green, Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman all sport sub-3.06 ERAs and all — save for Holder — own 10+ strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratios. A.J. Cole has been nothing to sneer at either (3-1, 1.29 WHIP).

You would think a bullpen like that wouldn’t need help, especially considering the Yankees have long been rumored to be in the market for a starting pitcher. Well, on July 24, Brian Cashman and the Yanks proved that you can never have too much of a good thing when they acquired Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton in exchange for three pitching prospects. Per MLB.com, the Orioles received right-handed prospects Dillon Tate (the Yankees No. 9 prospect) and Cody Carroll (No. 15) along with left-hander Josh Rogers. “Any time you can add to a strength, cover up a weakness or whatever, when you can add good players to your team, obviously that’s a good thing,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the news dropped.

The Yankees now own an embarrassment of riches in relief pitching, but what does the move mean for Britton himself and his fantasy value? Indeed, moving from the bottom-of-the-barrel Orioles to the Bronx automatically increases his opportunity to win, but what other fantasy aspects will increase? Which will decrease? Below is a deeper look into Britton’s new role with the Yankees, along with the impacts his departure will have on the Orioles’ bullpen and his owners across different fantasy leagues in the short and long terms.

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Britton's 2018

Rest of Season Value

Britton spent most of the season on the disabled list while working his way back from an Achilles injury. He returned to post a 3.45 ERA in 15 2/3 innings with the Orioles, but the closer allowed just three hits in his last eight appearances before joining the Yankees. Of course, the Yankees, their fans, and Britton’s fantasy owners all hope the pinstripes will cause him to return to his legendary 2016 form. That year, Britton posted a preposterous 0.54 ERA to go along with 47 saves.

But before we continue, one thing has to be made clear: barring an injury or some other unforeseen occurrence, Britton will not be the closer for the Yankees. Britton owners undoubtedly felt the gut-punch of their closer being downgraded. Saves are still the paramount factor for relief pitchers in fantasy — saves, and strikeouts. Instead, Britton will slide into the setup man role behind Aroldis Chapman. The Cuban Missile owns a 3-0 record with a 2.03 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 40 innings. Basically, he’s not going anywhere. That said, Chapman has battled a bad left knee this season and was ripped to shreds by the New York Mets in his last appearance, so don’t count out Britton ever getting an opportunity to close going forward.

Let's get the obvious out of the way: Britton’s fantasy value has been vastly reduced by his change from a closer to a setup man. For standard league players, Britton’s trade hurts even more, but that doesn’t mean he’s worthless — far from it, actually. Britton’s ability combined with the chances the Yankees will give him to win keeps him fantasy-relevant. It might be crazy to think a setup man is as valuable as a closer, but it’s hard to be a bankable closer when your team is losing as much as Baltimore has this season. Britton is obviously not as valuable as a Chapman, or a Craig Kimbrel, or a Edwin Diaz, but there is value to be found with him. When you look at it from the Yankees’ perspective, Britton will undoubtedly get many opportunities for holds and in multiple-reliever leagues — where Britton is most valuable — holds mean a lot. Combine that with Britton’s left-handed strikeout ability (he hasn’t gone under 7 K/9 in the last five seasons) and he still holds a ton of value in deeper leagues. He’s also a ground-ball pitcher extraordinaire — 76.2 percent of pitches that have been hit off of Britton since 2014 have been ground balls — and in Yankee Stadium’s hitter-friendly confines, that’s a huge plus. Lastly, he's staying in the American League East, which has been his home his entire career, and where he has dominated. For the remainder of 2018, expect him to come into the eighth inning of Yankee games and do what he does best. And if Chapman suffers an injury during that time that sidelines him, Britton’s value will skyrocket.

The Bully Bullpen

 Yankee fans are definitely pleased with Britton’s addition, but two relievers on the team have seen their fantasy value gutted: Dellin Betances and David Robertson. As Britton slides into the setup man role, both Robertson and Betances are expected to see their use reduced. With so many different styles of arms at their disposal, Aaron Boone and pitching coach Larry Rothschild will probably go with a matchup-approach to the bullpen, but Britton setting up and Chapman closing should be the norm going forward. As such, Robertson and Betances will probably have to share the seventh inning. Their value was held in multiple-reliever leagues from the beginning of 2018, but that value has greatly decreased with Britton on the team. And don’t be surprised if one of them is dangled as a trade chip this season as well. That said, they will still have chances for holds, but neither should expect to pitch as often as they did. Again, they still hold value in deep, multiple reliever leagues, but don’t expect the same production as before. Betances probably edges out Robertson in terms of fantasy favor, due to his insane strikeout ability (15.7 K/9 this season).

 

Dynasty Value

Britton will be a free agent at season’s end, so it’s no guarantee that he will be a Yankee in 2019. That said, with a surplus of bullpen arms and with many teams wanting to shorten games, the Yankees could move one or more of their relievers in a trade package this season and then sign Britton to a new contract in the offseason. The Yankees owe just $4,387,097 to Britton this season — definitely a team-friendly rental, to say the least. Another scenario — and probably a more plausible one, considering the Yankees already have a surplus of closer-level relievers in their bullpen — sees the Yankees letting Britton walk this offseason. This is where fantasy players should definitely give the 30-year-old a hard look. If he performs well for the Yankees down the stretch, he will definitely receive lucrative offers from closer-needy teams. As such, Britton’s dynasty owners are in a win-win situation. They can bite the bullet of his value decreasing while enjoying his holds and his win-opportunities with the Yankees this season, and then applaud as he returns to a closer’s role with another team next year.

What about the Orioles?

There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it: the Baltimore Orioles lost a fan-favorite and one of the best players on their roster in Zach Britton. A necessary sacrifice for a rebuilding team, but a sacrifice nonetheless. Fantasy players shouldn’t expect much from any of the three prospects the Orioles received for Britton this season, but dynasty players should definitely add Cody Carroll and Josh Rogers; especially Rogers, who can potentially join the Orioles rotation as soon as next season. Dillon Tate, who immediately slides into the No. 4 spot on the Orioles’ prospect list, owns the most upside but probably won’t be ready for the big leagues any time soon. Rogers owned a 3.95 ERA during his time in Triple-A while Carroll owned a 2.38 ERA. Consider them both solid options for the Orioles in the very-near future.

For the present though, reliever Brad Brach is expected to slide into the closer role for the Orioles going forward. He picked up his 11th save of the season on July 24 against the Boston Red Sox. Closer-hungry fantasy players and deep league players looking for another reliever should definitely add Brach, but they shouldn’t expect much from him. He owns a 4.85 ERA in 42 games and opposing hitters own a .333 batting average against him this season. Those aren’t great numbers for a closer. The Orioles will definitely miss Zach Britton’s dominance, but for now they’re looking towards the future of the franchise.

 

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