Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Wright Headed to Baltimore for Reliever

Earlier this week, the Yankees dealt Gary Sheffield for three pitching prospects rather than allowing the outfielder to leave via free agency after the 2007 season.
On Sunday, the Yankees took the same approach with Jaret Wright, dealing him to the Orioles for right-handed reliever Chris Britton. New York also sent $4 million to Baltimore in the deal.

Wright, who is set to earn $7 million in 2007, had a clause in his contract that would have allowed the Yankees to buy out the final year of his deal for $4 million.

Since Wright was not expected to return to the Yankees next year, it was widely assumed that his contract would be bought out, but general manager Brian Cashman opted to pay that same $4 million to a team willing to acquire the pitcher, allowing the Yankees to obtain a player in return.

"We are excited with the addition of Chris Britton, who we expect to compete for a role in our bullpen," said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman in a statement. "This acquisition provides additional flexibility to our pitching staff as we continue the transition toward the 2007 season. We thank Jaret Wright for his contributions as a Yankee and we wish him and his family nothing but the best."

Wright, who will turn 31 on Dec. 29, went 11-7 with a 4.49 ERA in 2006, his second season with the Yankees. He signed a three-year, $21 million contract with New York before the 2005 season, but he battled injuries in his first year of the deal, making just 13 starts.

The trade leaves just Randy Johnson, Chien-Ming Wang and Carl Pavano as starting pitchers on the Yankees roster, though free agent Mike Mussina is expected to return on a new two-year contract.

Wright pitched well down the stretch in 2006, going 6-2 after the All-Star break and 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three September starts. But his final start for New York came in Game 4 of the American League Division Series, when he was hit for four runs (three earned) in just 2 2/3 innings against the Tigers. The Yankees lost that game, 8-3, ending their postseason run much earlier than expected.

In two seasons with the Yankees, Wright went 16-12 with a 4.98 ERA in 43 games, 40 of which were starts. Wright is 68-57 in his 10-year career as a member of the Indians, Braves, Padres and Yankees.

Britton, who turns 24 on Dec. 16, is an intimidating right-hander at 6-foot-3 and 278 pounds. He went 0-2 with one save and a 3.35 ERA in 52 games with Baltimore in 2006, his first year in the Majors.

With Scott Proctor, Kyle Farnsworth and Brian Bruney set to return to the bullpen next season, Britton could open the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

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