ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Unable thus far to acquire a frontline starting pitcher as the trade deadline approaches, the Yankees instead got an elite left-handed relief pitcher, acquiring Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday.
In return, the Yankees sent the minor league starter Dillon Tate, who was scratched at the last minute from his scheduled start at Class AA Trenton. The Yankees also included two pitchers from Class AAA in the deal: the right-handed reliever Cody Carroll and the left-handed starter Josh Rogers.
News of the pending trade, which was announced after the game, reached the Yankees’ dugout and bullpen during their 4-0 win against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday. In addition to bolstering an already M.L.B.-best bullpen, Yankees players noted that the trade keeps Britton away from the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros — both of which are in need of relief pitching and had been in the hunt for Britton.
“Everyone is pretty much excited if it’s true,” Yankees reliever Dellin Betances said. “Adding a guy like that, it’s just pieces you can kind of play with. You don’t have to go out there and pitch three days in a row. It gives us more help. And we’ll keep feeding off that energy.”
Closer Aroldis Chapman, through an interpreter, said, “I believe he’s one of the best relievers in the game. When you bring in somebody like him, it gives us an opportunity to rotate and divide the workload.”
Tate, who was drafted by the Texas Rangers with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft, is widely considered one of the 10 best players in the Yankees’ farm system. The Yankees acquired Tate at the trade deadline two years ago, along with two other prospects, Erik Swanson and Nick Green, for Carlos Beltran.
Britton is a two-time All-Star who is coming off Achilles surgery because of a workout-related injury in December, which caused him to miss the first two and a half months of this season. He is set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
Since his return on June 12, Britton has pitched 15⅔ innings, striking out 13 and walking 10 to go with a 3.45 E.R.A. He has pitched very well lately, including against the Yankees earlier this month, when he threw a scoreless inning in back-to-back games, striking out three across the two games.
The trade adds depth to a bullpen that leads the major leagues with a 2.75 E.R.A. and 448 strikeouts. Britton will be the third Yankees reliever with 100 or more career saves — joining Chapman and David Robertson.
Tate, a 24-year-old right-hander, was 5-2 with a 3.38 E.R.A. in 15 starts at Class AA Trenton. Carroll, 25, was 3-0 in Class AAA with nine saves and a 2.81 E.R.A., while Rogers, 24, was 6-8 with a 3.95 E.R.A. in 19 starts.
Britton’s best season was 2016, when he converted 47 of 47 save opportunities and posted a 0.54 E.R.A. He did sustain two injuries last season — both times it was a left forearm strain — that hampered his performance. His presence with the Yankees, however, should not only shorten games for a struggling starting pitching staff, it also provides insurance should Chapman falter because of a balky left knee that has bothered him lately. Britton also gives the Yankees another left-handed arm in the bullpen, along with the left-handers Chapman and Chasen Shreve.
The Yankees’ starting pitching had little problems Tuesday night against the Rays, though. Masahiro Tanaka turned in his best performance, and first complete game, of the season — striking out nine, walking one and giving up only three hits. Perhaps even more impressive is that he only needed 105 pitches to complete the task.
Afterward, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone praised Tanaka’s efficiency and his ability to get swing-and-miss strikes.
“I was controlling the ball well and that led to being efficient,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “It’s satisfying, but the season continues. We still have a lot more games to play.”
Apparently, though, the Yankees will be playing those games with another elite arm in an already formidable bullpen.