Andy Singer provider our readers with an outstanding analysis of the Zach Britton signing. As always, Singer's reasoning is sound and based upon solid statistical evidence. There is every reason based on the stats to believe that David Robertson will be a better pitcher in 2019 than Zach Britton. Still, after thinking about this for a good long while, I like the Britton signing, even if it comes at the expense of David Robertson. Many of the reasons that I like the deal have less to do with solid statistics, instead, most of the reasons I like the trade are based more on my gut reactions and most recent observations of the two pitchers.
But, first, to be clear, as someone who feels the Yankees' cost saving measures are ill-advised and foolhardy, I would have loved to see both David Robertson and Zach Britton in pinstripes in 2019. It would have certainly been great to bring D-Rob back for another two years. Andy's stats demonstrate that very clearly.
Nonetheless, here are the reasons I like the Britton signing:
He is left-handed. All things being equal, if the decision was between Britton and Robertson, each a "plus" reliever, I'd have to choose Britton. After Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees have only one other lefty (Stephen Tarpley) who could slot into the pen (if everything goes well for him). They needed a solid left-handed reliever. Britton was the best of the bunch and the Yankees got him. That's good. Very good.
By signing Britton, the Yankees went over the luxury tax. Yes. Yes. And, Yes! The Yankees' strength is in their financial power. This is something the Yankees need to use. I have to hope that since that threshold was crossed, that the Yankees will keep spending. Do it. There is generational elite talent out there. The time is now to play big. Championship flags fly forever.
Along those lines...I don't care that Robertson's contract was shorter (most likely) and less costly. With the Yankees being much (too much) more financially cautious, I have to believe that they saw very good reasons themselves for spending more money on Zach Britton rather than David Robertson. All things being equal, if the players were equal, or if Robertson was the better value, it would have made perfect sense for the Yankees to sign him. The fact that they didn't, and spent more money, seems to indicate that they have good reasons for choosing Britton over D-Rob. Remember, in all of this, the Yankees know significantly more than we do. Significantly more.
As someone who is not a professional athlete, but who has also battled a torn Achilles, I know how that injury can impact on one's performance - even as an over-the-hill softball player and marathon runner. It's an injury that takes forever to recover from. It seems Britton is finally healed. If he returns to his pre-injury self, the Yankees have themselves another outstanding reliever.
I've always liked David Robertson. He was a great Yankee (on two separate occasions). I had a ton of confidence in him. That being said, as the 2018 season progressed, whether the numbers said it or not, he seemed to get less and less sharp and was less and less effective. He didn't seem like the same pitcher he had always been, especially down the stretch. (I'm not even going to delve into any stats on this - this is a gut thing for me, the numbers might not back this up.) I know that in this day and age, we are supposed to base all of our analysis on the numbers, and the more detailed and fancy they are, the better. We're taught, now, to rely less and less on what we see. I get it. While the numbers might not say it, I think Robertson, even if it is ever so slightly, is slowing down. With the weaker National League, where D-Rob will pitch, we might not see this play out in his 2019 stats, but I still feel that he might not have been the pitcher the Yankees would have hoped if they signed him for 2019 and 2020.
Also, while stats are great, all they do is tell us what already happened. I am higher on Britton's next two years than I am on Robertson's. Britton is two years younger, and when we're talking about Robertson's age 34 and 35 seasons, at those ages, those two years could be (and I think will be) significant.
If Britton regains his elite status, the Yankees also have some insurance for Chapman if he gets injured or slows down. They now have a second "closer" in the fold.
All this being said, I don't think the Yankees are done. They need another reliever. The Yankees also need to shore up their infield defense. Britton, a ground ball pitcher, will be having batters hit to a left-side of the infield that has third baseman Miguel Andujar (at best a project in the works defensively) and Troy Tulowitzki (who hasn't played a significant amount of games at shortstop in years - and is at the age when even healthy players slow down). On the right side, he has a still-learning Gleyber Torres at second base and an average defensively, at best, Luke Voit at first. That is not an inspiring defense for a team to use a ground ball pitcher with.
After a long slumber, it seems like the Yankees are starting to gear up to put the pieces in place for 2019. It's my hope that they continue to spend! (The time is now. The team won’t fly a flag that reads “Financially Cautious in 2019”, but they will fly a World Champion 2019 flag (if that occurs). The talent is there, right now, to help make that a reality. Go get the stars Yankees!)