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On paper, it was a no-brainer.

How could the New York Yankees NOT exercise their 2022 club option on reliever Zack Britton to prevent him from becoming a free agent this winter?

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After all, Britton was lights-out during the coronavirus-shortened 2020 regular season, compiling a 1.89 ERA and eight saves in 20 appearances.

But Britton didn’t take his return for granted, according to an interview he conducted with YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits.

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“There definitely was (a doubt), due to, obviously, financial situations that teams are in, for what they’re saying and, yeah, I didn’t know,” Britton said (h/t SNY). “Me and my agent, Scott Boras, we really didn’t discuss in great length what was going to happen if they didn’t and what we were going to do in regards to free agency and things like that. So it was nice, obviously, to get that call from (Brian Cashman) talking about it. Obviously, I’m excited to stay in New York for the next two years and hopefully win a championship is the reason why I came here in the first place. So to have two more years to kind of realize that goal would be nice.”

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By exercising their option, the Yankees now have Britton on the books for $13 million in 2021, the final season of his three-year, $39-million pact, and also for 2022 at $14 million. His salary is the highest in baseball for non-closer relievers.

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The two-time All-Star led the AL with 47 saves in 2016 is eighth among active players with 153.

The Yankees avoid arbitration with ace Chien-Ming Wang by signing him to a one-year, $5 million contract for the 2009 season. Unfortunately, the right-hander would not be the same after the foot injury that ended his 2008 campaign after only 15 starts, and he would not be offered a contract for 2010. It took him until 2011 to recover from injuries and return to major league ball with the Nationals, and he was a shadow of his former self.

11 Years Ago

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Desperate for pitching beyond the three-man rotation that led them to the 2009 World Series, Brian Cashman trades for Javier Vázquez for the second time in his career. The Yankees sent Melky Cabrera and minor leaguers Michael Dunn and Arodys Vizcaíno to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Vázquez and reliever Boone Logan. Despite coming in fourth in the NL Cy Young voting the year prior, Vázquez was a bust in pinstripes once again, and was even demoted from the rotation in August. Unsurprisingly, he did not make the playoff roster, and was not pursued as a free agent. The lefty Logan at least had the decency to put in reputable work out of the bullpen over the next four seasons.

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★ ★ ★

Happy 33rd birthday to Yankees reliever Zack Britton! Originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the 2006 MLB Draft, Britton — then known by Zach — made his Major League debut on April 3, 2011, throwing six innings of one-run ball against the Tampa Bay Rays to earn the win. A mediocre starter for the first three years of his career, Britton would dominate once moved to the ‘pen before the 2014 season, quickly becoming the Orioles’ closer. In 2016, he put together one of the best performances as a reliever in baseball history (0.54 ERA, 0.836 WHIP, and a perfect 47-for-47 in saves), but was famously left in the Rogers Centre bullpen by manager Buck Showalter during the AL Wild Card Game, a fact that he has commented on not infrequently.

On July 24, 2018, he was acquired by the Yankees in exchange for Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll, and Josh Rogers, and was re-signed to a two-to-four-year swell-opt, which was exercised by the Yankees this winter. In pinstripes, Britton has been one of the most reliable relief pitchers in baseball, posting a 2.14 ERA, 1.120 WHIP, and 206 ERA+, in large part due to his 70+ ground ball percentage. Long live the bowling-ball sinker.

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