14:56: Although Britton’s season is over, his time in New York may continue, as ESPN’s Marly Rivera reports that “Britton and the Yankees are already in preliminary talks” about a new contract.
10:59 am: The Yankees have announced they have chosen a reliever Jacob Barnes on the Major League squad. In a corresponding move, veteran southpaw Zack Britton has been placed on the 60-day injured list. His season is over after he left with shoulder fatigue last night.
Barnes cracks a major league roster with a third other team from the 2022 campaign. The 32-year old broke camp with the Tigers, pitching in 22 games, working to a 6.10 ERA to 20 2/3 innings. Barnes struckout only 11.2% of its batters on a personal worst 7.7% swinging hit percentage. Barnes did throw ground balls at a record 51.5% in his career, but the lack of swing-and-miss prompted the Tigers to designate him for assignment in June.
The veteran reliever signed a minor league deal with the Mariners and briefly made the Major League-squad in July. He spent a few days on the active roster but failed to show up before being fired. Barnes returned to Detroit on a minor league deal, spent a month in Triple-A, then was released. He signed a minor league deal with New York in late August, pitching in ten games for their top Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate.
While Barnes hasn’t had much major league success this season, he threw 18 innings of a 2.00 ERA ball at the Triple-A level. Barnes has knocked out 32.9% of opponents there at a 9.2% running speed, and he has missed many top-level bats in recent years. He defeated more than 30% of opponents with the Angels in 2020 and had an above average strikeout of 25.8% last season.
Since Barnes was in the organization on August 31, he would qualify for the Yankees roster after the season. He was not on the 40-man roster at the end of August, but New York can still petition the commissioner’s office to have him qualify for the playoffs as an injury replacement for Britton. Injury exemptions are common every season, so the Yankees should have no problem carrying Barnes to the playoffs if they want to. Now back on a 40-man roster, Barnes is technically eligible for arbitration for next season, but it’s likely the Yankees will remove him from the roster by the end of the year and allow him to play the minor league free agency.
It seems unlikely that they would wear Barnes given his big league-level struggles this year, but the Yankees pitching staff is struggling with a number of injuries. Closer Clay Holmes is suffering from his shoulder, manager Aaron Boone announced last night. New York will not put him on the injured list and rule him out as an AL Division Series option, but he is not expected to pitch again in the regular season. MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch says the Yankees are hopeful that Holmes will be ready for the start of the ALDS, but it’s hard to know for sure if that will be the case.
Meanwhile acquisition of trade deadlines Frankie Montas doesn’t look like he will be an option for the ALDS. New York put Montas on the IL two weeks ago with shoulder inflammation and Boone said this morning it looks like he won’t be ready for the Division Series (hoch link). Montas is playing catch today and the Yankees have not officially ruled him out from the ALDS, but Boone suggested he is more likely to return as a relief option for the ALCS if the Yankees qualify.
Britton is certainly no longer a playoff option, with the 60-day IL placement ending his year. It could unceremoniously end his four-year tenure as Yankee. Acquired from the Orioles midway through the 2018 campaign, Britton was an elite late-game weapon for his first few seasons in the Bronx. He pitched to a 2.14 ERA over 105 1/3 innings through the end of the 2020 season, including grounders with an incredible 76.3% clip. The Yankees preemptively exercised a $14 million option on his services for 2022 at the end of that year to prevent Britton from activating an opt-out that would have allowed him to test free agency.
Although an understandable move at the time, that decision turned out to be very regrettable in retrospect. Britton was tagged for a 5.89 ERA in 18 1/3 frames last season, and has struggled with injuries throughout the year. He eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in September, an issue that kept him on the injured list until last week. Britton returned on September 22 and made three appearances, but walked six of the nine batters he faced before yesterday’s injury.
Britton will hit the open market this winter after two seasons virtually lost. His quick ball speed had dropped in his very close eye this month, and he was clearly battling extreme rust from a strike-throwing perspective. The 34-year-old hadn’t looked quite healthy for two years, which will clearly be a blow to his market value.