Maybe it's time for O's to take advantage of the reliever frenzy and deal Zach Britton -

Dan Connolly

Maybe it’s time for O’s to take advantage of the reliever frenzy and deal Zach Britton

If the Orioles are truly honest, they have two choices this offseason:

Go all in and fill their most obvious roster holes with high-priced talent or trade off one or two of their best commodities right now to deepen their roster before the winter of 2018-19 wipes out all of the previous warm and fuzzy feelings.

The best guess is they’ll do neither. That’s more their style.

Instead, they’ll try to pick up a catcher and right fielder in a financially responsible manner, and be in the mix for the playoffs again in 2017. Of course, we won’t know until the middle of next season whether their prudent acquisitions have landed the next Mark Trumbo or the next Travis Snider.

No, the Orioles won’t go get Edwin Encarnacion and throw him at DH and Dexter Fowler and throw him in right field and write a humongous payroll check for 2017.

And they won’t bite the bullet and deal away either third baseman Manny Machado or closer Zach Britton – or both — for a pirate’s ransom to restock the system with high-end talent before much of the club’s nucleus seeks free agency before the 2019 season.

I get the Machado thing. There’s no one to replace his production at third base or in the middle of the lineup. He’s just 24. Trading him away now would be a fervent wave of the white flag in front of the loyal fans’ faces.

But Britton?

The Orioles should be thinking really hard about dealing him now.





Because it will be really difficult for Britton to repeat his historic 2016 season in which he posted a 0.54 ERA and converted all of his save opportunities. It’s hard to be better than perfect.

That’s not to say Britton can’t be the best closer in the American League in his next two seasons under contract with the Orioles. I certainly wouldn’t bet against that after watching him pitch these last two-plus seasons. He’s phenomenal.

But it’s hard to imagine his trade value could get any higher. He turns 29 this month. He isn’t a free agent for two more seasons. He’s going to make more than $11 million this year in arbitration – and that’ll only skyrocket if he has another All-Star campaign or two.

The other wrinkle here is that this may be the greatest moment in the game’s history to deal a superstar closer. We just completed the “Postseason of the Reliever,” and every team is a-frenzied with thoughts of shutdown innings from the bullpen.

Mark Melancon, an exceptionally competent 31-year-old closer, agreed to a four-year, $62 million deal Monday with the San Francisco Giants. And he’s not the best of the closers that are available as free agents this year; Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are expected to get more.

And that’ll still leave some big-money teams without a closer, whether it’s the New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers or even the Miami Marlins.

Britton, with two controllable years in his prime, would be perhaps the best option for a team looking for relief help.

Plus, if elite closers are getting $20 million per year this year, and Britton remains dominant for two more seasons, how much will he command on the open market?

It’s a mind-boggling concept, especially for an Orioles team that once traded Jim Johnson for spare parts before the 2014 season because they didn’t want to pay $10 million for a closer (a move that paid off handsomely when Britton emerged).

And that’s the other thing: Britton’s stuff is absolutely filthy, but Darren O’Day, Brad Brach and Mychal Givens are pretty darn effective, too. You’d think one of those guys could handle the job effectively, though, yes, Britton’s absence would really weaken the club’s primary strength.

You could sign him to an extension now, but I don’t see that happening either. (Unless he’s getting major security, years-wise, why would he agree to an extension knowing what the relief market is becoming?)

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette was asked about all of this – in a sense, anyway – Monday. And this how he responded:

“Zach had a great year. He perfected that sinkerball. And put together a fantastic year. He’s not on the cusp of free agency; he has two years to go so the free agent contracts (this offseason) will have some impact,” Duquette said. “But there’s still a defined market for a four-plus-year, major league relief pitcher, and Zach Britton deserves the raise. He had a great year.”

In other words, the Orioles seem content with paying Britton big money for 2017 because he earned it –and was such a huge part of the team.

Nothing wrong with that sentiment. It’s commendable.

But if you aren’t going all-in all around Britton, then maybe it’s time – no matter how much it may sting — to take the best trade offer and plan for 2017, 2018 and beyond.



  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 6, 2016 at 7:21 am

    Heck, if you’re not going to use him in the most crucial spot of the season, why NOT trade him?

    Seriously though, if the price is right, nobody on this team is untouchable. (except maybe JJ)

    • Mau

      December 6, 2016 at 8:38 am

      Trade him. Get a productive 3B, slide Manny to SS, where he wants to play, and a corner outfielder and/or starter. Make Duquette earn his paycheck.

    • Dan Connolly

      December 6, 2016 at 10:40 am

      There definitely would be a haul that could help fill several holes.

  2. OsFanStuckInNY

    December 6, 2016 at 10:00 am

    I’ve said that repeatedly about Britton’s trade value and the fact that the O’s have O’Day & Brach who could close now and Gyvens in the loop. Even if you figure the O’s lose as many as 5 more games with a different closer, a Fowler type in RF wins more than that playing everyday.

    • Dan Connolly

      December 6, 2016 at 10:41 am

      Yeah but I doubt you get a Fowler type in return. More likely younger guys who will take a couple years to develop into something like that

      • John in Cincy

        December 7, 2016 at 1:26 am

        If the Orioles can’t get a haul at least somewhat comparable to what they got for Bedard they shouldn’t consider a deal.

        I qualified it by saying “somewhat”, because I can’t see them getting that much back, but “comparable”, because Britton’s good enough that they should be able to get an Adam Jones type of elite MLB-ready prospect, and a decent prospect besides (a top ten from an club, albeit from the lower part of ten).

        Otherwise, the trade would make no sense, because the O’s shouldn’t be in a rebuilding mode, which you seem to be proposing. Also, problematic is finding a suitable replacement. Bundy would probably be as good as anyone, but is too valuable as a starter. Brach had a troubling second half and I’m not sure he has the toughness, while Givens may still need to prove he can dispatch lefties as well as righties.

        That leaves O’Day. While he had a tough year, and never seemed to bounce back fully, that’s not surprising with the injury. Assuming that’s in the past, to me he’d be the strongest option. He’s amazed me in the past couple of years with his ability in tough–nearly impossible–jams to go into his Houdini mode, even deliberately walking a batter to load the bases to get the it set up for the play at any base. That’s supreme confidence and steely resolve. But Zach’s still gone, so bullpen depth is suddenly lacking.

        Why did you have to mention the Yankees, Dan? Let them sweat without a closer. I sure don’t want to see Britton in pinstripes. It could spoil the summer, you know?

    • OsFanStuckInNY

      December 6, 2016 at 8:08 pm

      I’d never trade him for anything less than an established MLB player. Do you really think they’d only get prospects for him?!?

  3. karks

    December 6, 2016 at 10:51 am

    As much as it pains me to say it, I think they have to listen to offers on Britton. This is a team that lacks prospects that they can use to upgrade. He would bring in a load of them.

    But it would have to be a great haul for the O’s. He’s too valuable to this team to trade away for anything less than a great deal in return.

    • Dan Connolly

      December 6, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      And the problem is no one will know if it is a great haul until a few years from now and those prospects blossom or wilt. It’s definitely a risk.

      • karks

        December 6, 2016 at 2:09 pm

        Absolutely. What looks like a great prospect today could be a disaster in a few years.

  4. Eldersburg Enigma

    December 6, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    I’d wait another two weeks and let Chapman and Jansen sign first, leaving a few desperate teams. But absolutely you have to look at trading Britton. He’s much more valuable than Brach at fetching value right now.

  5. pedro

    December 6, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    No way they trade Britton. The clock is ticking on DD’s and Buck’s contracts. My bet is Buck retires after 2018 and DD leaves (especially after not being allowed to pursue the Toronto President position last year). I think they have a narrow window with this core and will not trade their best pitcher.

    • John in Cincy

      December 7, 2016 at 1:28 am

      Makes sense to me. Vote Pedro!

  6. haydad929

    December 6, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    What would you want back to move Britton?

    • marcshank

      December 8, 2016 at 12:16 am

      A starting pitcher, of course, now that they let Chris Sale waltz over to the team that doesn’t even need him. Angelos doesn’t care about winning a Series while he’s alive, I guess. I wonder if his son would be any different.

      I want a great starting pitcher for Zach and if he’s not enough, yes, I’ll give them Kim. Because that would mean we have a rotation that could actually match Boston’s.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 8, 2016 at 11:06 am

        Deal the Hitting Machine? Blasphemer !!

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