The Orioles should trade Zach Britton and get a haul for him. That was the suggestion of one reader when I wrote on Friday of the moves the team could potentially make this offseason.
When Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter held their year-end press briefing on Oct. 4, Duquette was asked about the possibility of trading Britton or Manny Machado, both of whom could be free agents two years from now.
“I haven’t thought about that that much, but that’s something we can think about for the offseason,” Duquette said. “I like those guys on our ballclub, I like the work that they do and I like watching them every day. One’s an MVP candidate and the other one’s a Cy Young Award candidate. Those guys are tough to find and they’re young and they’re good and they play for the Orioles. We like them on our ballclub.”
In Duquette’s five years with the Orioles, the team has been in contention each season, and he has shown no inclination to trade attractive players who are nearing free agency.
Not even in 2015 when the Orioles were on the fringe of contention and they had some tradeable assets who were about to become free agents: Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O’Day and Matt Wieters, did they trade.
Instead of trying to move them, Duquette added another looming free agent, Gerardo Parra, to the team.
Trading Britton after his historical season, could appear to some to be wise, but even though he’s under club control for two more seasons, those will be expensive seasons, and there are many clubs who would balk at paying a reliever—even one as excellent as Britton—the $11.4 million that he could earn in arbitration, according to MLBTradeRumors.com.
If Britton has another good season, he could make perhaps $15 million in his final arbitration year, and while some teams with large payrolls could afford that, how many teams have the type of players that would make a deal like that attractive to the Orioles?
As good as the Orioles bullpen is, Britton is the key.
But, there’s another alternative to trading the best relief pitcher in baseball, and that’s trading Brad Brach.
Brach is also two years away from free agency, and while he’s no Britton, some teams needing a closer may think he could fit.
It’s highly unlikely that two years from now, the Orioles could afford a high priced bullpen that includes O’Day, who is set to make $9 million in 2018 and 2019, Britton and Brach.
While Duquette has held onto his free agents, the Orioles don’t have many attractive veteran players to trade, and Brach is perhaps the most attractive.
Brach was obtained three years ago from San Diego, where he struggled to establish himself as a major leaguer. In one of Duquette’s best trades, the Orioles acquired Brach for minor league pitcher Devin Jones, who did not play in 2016.
In his three seasons with the Orioles, Brach is 22-8 with a 2.61 ERA and last year had a 2.05 ERA and an All-Star selection.
Brach has three saves in the last two years, and in arbitration, he is estimated to bring home $2.9 million in 2017, far less than Britton’s number.
The three biggest reliever names expected to hit the market are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon. If the Kansas City Royals don’t exercise Wade Davis’ $10 million option, he could be on the market, too.
Brach would also be far cheaper than any of those.
While a bullpen featuring Brach, Britton, O’Day, Mychal Givens and Donnie Hart would be strong, Givens has pitched well enough to move into Brach’s role.
In his last 13 regular season appearances, Givens allowed just one run on six hits in 12 2/3 innings, striking out 16. In Brach’s last 13 appearances, he allowed eight runs—five earned—on 13 hits in 12 1/3 innings for a 3.65 ERA.
I’m not one to throw out fantasy trades, but it’s obvious the Orioles are looking for help in the leadoff spot as well as fortifying catching.
If Brach, who underwent minor knee surgery earlier this month, can fetch the Orioles some help at the top of the order, perhaps they should listen.
I’m not campaigning for the Orioles to trade Brach, but they’ve shown organizational ability to develop relievers. In the past two seasons, they’ve brought both Givens and Hart up directly from Double-A.
Showalter likes having relievers who are optionable, and moving Brach could open a spot for a reliever who can be freely optioned.
Givens, Hart, Oliver Drake and Parker Bridwell all have options.
Keeping Brach isn’t a bad idea, but seeing what they could get for him seems to make a lot of sense.
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