After Saturday’s blog asserting that the Orioles didn’t have much to trade, a suggestion came from a reader who thinks the Orioles should consider trading Zach Britton because the market for relief pitchers is hot and that he could bring a nice package in return.
There are some very good reasons the Orioles should consider that—and some very good one they shouldn’t.
True, the market for relievers is hot. Craig Kimbrel and Francisco Rodriguez have already been traded this month, and Andrew Miller could be in play, too.
There’s been no talk about trading Britton, but if they did, it would certainly qualify as a blockbuster.
Britton is an excellent reliever. In two seasons, he’s saved 73 games and has a WHIP under 1. Last year, he was recognized for his achievement with an invitation to the All-Star Game.
Kimbrel may be even better than Britton. He has 224 saves over the last five seasons, and four All-Star nods. His career WHIP is .0927.
Britton is under Orioles’ control for three more seasons, and is eligible for arbitration for the first time while Kimbrel, who was traded to Boston, came stay there for three more years, too.
Kimbrel is owed $24.5 million over the next two seasons and has a club option for $13 million in 2018.
To get Kimbrel, the Red Sox traded four prospects. The Orioles could use four more prospects.
RELATED: Orioles keep looking for trades, are there matches?
In less than 2 ½ years, the Orioles have traded off five legitimate pitching prospects: Steven Brault, Zach Davies, Josh Hader, Eduardo Rodriguez and Stephen Tarpley and their system could surely use an infusion of young talent.
Rodriguez, who will be 34 in January, isn’t in Kimbrel’s class any longer, but he’s still a fine closer. The Detroit Tigers gave up a promising minor league infielder to the Milwaukee Brewers for K-Rod.
Britton is actually five months older than Kimbrel, who will be 27 when the season begins.
Would Britton bring in as much as Kimbrel? Probably not.
Only a team with a dire need for a closer and a stocked farm system make such a deal. Houston would be one of the few teams that could match up. While Luke Gregerson did a creditable job last year as closer, the Astros would probably like to move him to setup man and get a stronger ninth inning guy.
They bid on Miller and David Robertson last offseason and were interested in Britton when he was a struggling starter, and they certainly have a farm system loaded with top talent.
But, there are many better reasons for the Orioles to keep Britton.
Darren O’Day seems nearly certain to depart, and while developing quality relievers is an Orioles strength, leaving the setup and closer duties to Brad Brach and Mychal Givens is unwise. Both Brach and Givens may move up to the setup role without O’Day, but neither has closing experience.
The Orioles have strong players at the five most important defensive positions: catcher, second base, shortstop, third base and center field. Three of those players, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are veterans, and trading Britton would smell of rebuilding, not retooling.
Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter would surely argue that the Orioles are still in contention mode. With Hardy, Jones, Wieters, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, and a possible re-signing of Chris Davis, the team could contend if the starting pitching is better in 2016 than 2015.
The Orioles should listen to offers for Britton, but they would have to be bowled over for such a move. If they re-signed O’Day, they could listen, but it seems farfetched that they could offer him four years at $28 million—or much more. O’Day could then close.
It’s exciting when teams make trades or sign big free agents. The reaction to Wieters accepting his qualifying offer was muted, but if they re-signed Davis, fans would be justifiably excited, and it would quiet the critics who say the team won’t spend money.
Britton is a quality closer the Orioles need, and while the farm system could use some more talent, having him for three more years is a good strategy even as his salary escalates rapidly. He made $3.2 million last year and in his first year of arbitration eligibility, could go over $5 million.
The thinking here is the Orioles would be wise to keep Britton and build around him.
NOTE: According to a report by Ilgan Sports, the Orioles have signed first baseman Ji-Man Choi to a minor league contract. The 24-year-old has played in Seattle’s system since 2010, but has lost time to injuries and a PED suspension the last two seasons.
Choi, who has a .301 average in their minors, will receive an invitation to spring training.
MORE ORIOLES: Orioles add three minor leaguers to 40-man roster