Heyman: Zach Britton, Brad Hand Among Yankees Interests

A glaring need for the Yankees as the non-waiver trade deadline is a non-Aroldis Chapman lefty who can come into a tough situation to get left-handers out.

Chasen Shreve was given that role out of Spring Training once the team released Wade LeBlanc on March 23 as camp started to wind down. Shreve has been inadequate in that role, as lefties have an OPS of 1.002 against him as of July 8. Overall, hitters have an OPS of .853 against him (again, as of July 8) on the season so there’s clearly room for an upgrade.

Jon Heyman of FanCred tweeted yesterday that the Yankees have inquired with the Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres about lefties Zach Britton and Brad Hand, respectively. Both would represent a gigantic upgrade over Shreve. Let’s dive into each of them as potential trade pieces.

Zach Britton

Britton is coming off a rather major injury, as he ruptured the Achilles tendon in his right leg December 20 during an offseason workout. He began the season on the 60-day disabled list and made his first appearance June 12. So far, he has pitched 10⅔ innings and allowed six runs. It creates an inflated 5.06 ERA up front, but if you look at his game logs, four of those runs came in one outing, and the other two came in another. He’s a victim of how small sample sizes can kill a reliever’s ERA.

The 30-year-old has been as dominant as they come since becoming a full-time reliever in 2014. He’s got a 1.61 ERA and 244 strikeouts to 73 walks. Britton will be a free agent after the 2018 season, so his status as a rental making the pro-rated portion of $12 million makes him rather cheap. Health issues with an Astros prospect torpedoed a deal to send him to Houston last year. The Orioles ended up screwed by Britton’s Achilles injury because now he has limited time to build up value.

Baltimore has used him exclusively as a closer since converting him into a reliever, though that clearly would not be his role if he were traded to New York. His .181/.239/.232 line against left-handed hitters since his bullpen move makes him a prime rental candidate for the Yankees.

Brad Hand

Hand is an interesting trade candidate for a variety of reasons. He has shown clear signs of regression from his All-Star campaign in 2017, and has an ERA that is more than half a run higher than at this point last season. But, his 2.16 ERA and 21 saves in 2017 were enough for the San Diego Padres to buy out his first year of free agency with a three-year extension in January 2018. That extension also features a club option for the 2021 season.

Hand has been a full-time reliever with the Padres since they claimed him off waivers prior to the 2016 season. In that timeframe, he’s marginally better against lefties than Britton in a smaller sample: .134/.230/.263

With that said, Hand will be a much more expensive trade because of the control that comes with him. The Yankees were able to fetch Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen from the Indians for a similar amount of control of Andrew Miller. Hand is not on the same level as Miller, but is also making significantly less money (Hand is making $4.1 million, up to $7.6 million; Miller has been making $9 million). Still, the prospect price would be quite high.

Given the Orioles’ loathing of trades within the division, I think it’s hard to imagine the Yankees acquiescing to their demands for a Zach Britton trade. An acquisition of Brad Hand, no matter how expensive, would provide a huge upgrade in a crucial spot for the Yankees relief corps. With the amount of young pitching talent still in the Yankee farm system, the Yankees should put more into targeting Hand for the 2018 team and beyond.

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