Orioles reportedly willing to listen to offers for Britton, and two teams are interested
The Baltimore Orioles are at a crossroads right now. The team went 75-87 and finished in last place in 2017, and next offseason core players Manny Machado, Zach Britton, and Adam Jones can all become free agents. Do the O’s try to make one last run with this group in 2018, or take a step back and rebuild?
For now, Baltimore is at least willing to listen to trade offers for one of their core players. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports the Cubs and Dodgers have spoken to the Orioles about Britton, and other teams could be in the mix as well.
The Orioles are said to be willing to at least listen on Britton since they need to reallocate monies for the rotation, he’s expected to get upwards of $13 million via arbitration after making $11.4 million last year — high for a small-to-medium market like Baltimore — and he’s a free agent after the year.
The Dodgers were one of the prime players for Britton last summer, but ultimately they traded for two lefty relievers instead — Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson. The Orioles had a tentative agreement with the Astros at the July 31 deadline, but Baltimore pulled out of it, either due to the medicals of players coming from Houston or owner Peter Angelos’ cold feet — or both. Angelos remains a wild card who could ultimately decide he doesn’t want to trade Britton, but it makes sense to shop him now, at the very least.
MLB Trade Rumors projects Britton to earn $12.2 million in 2018, his final season of arbitration eligibility. The soon-to-be 30-year-old went 15 for 17 in save chances this past season, and had a 2.89 ERA in 37 1/3 innings. Forearm problems sent him to the disabled list on two occasions, which is an obvious red flag.
Britton was of course dynamite in 2016, going 47 for 47 in save chances with a 0.54 ERA in 67 innings. That’s four earned runs all season, including only one after April. Whichever team acquires Britton — assuming he is traded, of course — is going to hope they get the 2016 version, though they’ll be happy with the 2017 version minus the disabled list stints.
What is one year of Britton worth in a trade? The Cubs answered that question for us last year: Jorge Soler. Chicago traded Soler to the Royals straight up for one year of Wade Davis, another elite closer. Soler was 24 at the time and not too far removed from his days as a top-25 prospect, plus he had some MLB success to his credit.
The O’s could target a Soler type in a Britton trade, a high-end young player they can plug into their lineup right away, or a package of prospects who can help them win down the road. If they go that route, they might as well trade Machado and Jones as well, and begin a rebuild in earnest.