Orioles' new path, last summer's trade take sting out of Zach Britton's deal with the Yankees

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Former Orioles closer Zach Britton's Saturday-night agreement with the New York Yankees gives the onetime All-Star a familiar landing spot, the same place the Orioles sent him in July as part of last summer's teardown.

And even if it's on the longer end of the unique contract structure that could turn the reported base of three years, $36 million into a four-year deal if the Yankees exercise a 2022 option (though Britton can opt out after two years if they don't), it's not as if there will be any real implication for the Orioles that their longtime closer will be in the Yankees bullpen for the foreseeable future.

Last year's 115-loss Orioles team will return largely intact for 2019, and given that the farm system has better depth but is lacking major-league-ready impact talent that could help the team soon, the prognosis for the Orioles this year and next isn't one in which one reliever on the Yankees is going to make much of a difference in what they're doing.

The Orioles played a role in Britton landing there, as his half a season with the Yankees was undoubtedly valuable in helping both sides learn about each other. Britton told FanGraphs he had much more analytical information available to him there, and embraced that aspect of the game in New York.

His 2.88 ERA and 1.160 WHIP in a Yankees uniform was a stark improvement from some of his struggles coming back from Achilles tendon surgery that he went through with the Orioles, and he'll have a full and healthy offseason ahead of his first Opening Day in pinstripes.

That makes the prospect of facing Britton a dozen times a year over the course of the next two seasons and possibly more not terribly appealing. But unlike the beginning of the Buck Showalter era, during which the primary focus of the Orioles was pulling themselves to the level of the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the new mission seems to be to build something in the minors that can eventually allow them to do that consistently.

To some degree, the trade that sent Britton to New York and brought pitchers Dillon Tate, Josh Rogers and Cody Carroll could be a piece of that. If nothing else, those players will be a part of the bridge to that new era at the major league level as new executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias remakes the farm system.

But unlike some previous former Orioles who decided to sign with the Yankees, the Orioles did this themselves in trading Britton there last year. And considering the good vibes around what this team is trying to do, it might be a brave new era in Orioles baseball when a former star signs with the Yankees and no one much minds.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

twitter.com/JonMeoli

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