The Cubs were among six teams in attendance at lefty reliever Zack Britton‘s Wednesday workout, the second time he has held a showcase for interested parties. Once among the best relievers in the game, the 35-year-old Britton is coming off two forgettable seasons with the Yankees and his velocity is way down from previous years. That drop hasn’t been gradual either, we’re talking about more than two ticks since 2020.
Teams that scouted free-agent reliever Zack Britton during his throwing session today in Florida, per source: Giants, Angels, Mets, Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 15, 2023
Some of that is surely a matter of health, as Britton has only managed 19 innings in the last two campaigns combined. He didn’t even complete a full inning across three appearances this past season and question marks abound as to whether he’s still got anything left in the tank. As long as it’s more than fumes, he could be a nice fit for the Cubs.
Since taking a full-time relief role in 2014, Britton’s sinker has generated an unmatched 75.8% groundball rate. That’s easily the highest mark in baseball among 557 pitchers with at least 200 innings in that time, and only nine others in that group are even above 60% grounders. Anything close to those results would be great with the Cubs’ improved defense behind him.
Jed Hoyer has around $8 million in space below the first luxury tax threshold following the addition of Michael Fulmer, so there’s still a little room if Britton is willing to sign for cheap. It’s hard to imagine the Hoyer maintaining less than a $5 million buffer, especially when we’re talking about a fairly risky acquisition, so maybe $2-3 million with incentives at the most. The Cubs will have some room on the roster with 60-day IL moves and they’re really light on lefties, so this could be a risk worth taking.