Despite animosity between the clubs, the Washington Nationals are interested in Baltimore Orioles pitcher Zach Britton. Could a deal happen?
Whether the Baltimore Orioles want to trade him is another story. If they do, would they consider the Nats?
Britton nearly won the American League Cy Young last year following one of the best closer jobs in history. With an ERA of 0.54 and WHIP of 0.836, he slammed the door 47 times for the O’s as they made it into the AL Wild Card game. Manager Buck Showalter not using him in extra innings against the Toronto Blue Jays remains a mystery as Toronto won.
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It is strange that Britton may be available. An injury shut him down twice this year; once in mid-April and again in early May. Before his first injury, he finished all five save opportunities. Upon his return, he has yet to close a game as Brad Brach filled the role.
In the three years Britton was the closer, he excelled. Beyond last season’s incredible numbers, he saved 37 and 36 games respectfully the two years prior. He can give you over three outs and possesses good control with a walk rate of 2.4 per-9 last year.
With two years of arbitration left, Britton is not a rental. He is also not cheap.
The Orioles gave him $11.4 million this year and all of it will count against the Nats competitive balance tax if they grab him. That would place Washington $9 million over the $195 million limit with a 20 percent fee for every dollar they are.
Before thinking about what Baltimore wants in return—a high price for sure—remember these teams dislike each other. When the Nats moved from Montreal to Washington, it was Orioles owner Peter Angelos who forced the team into a shared regional cable network with the Orioles. A deal so lopsided in Baltimore’s favor, it is still in the court system.
Whatever personal feelings there are between the organization, the need for a closer trumps everything and the Nats are prudent to ask if Britton is available. Although the Orioles are 4.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card spot, they would need to leapfrog six teams to get there. They could be sellers or buyers.
The first week out of the break and what they do on the field determines their fate.
Chances are Britton will not come to Washington. Never say never to a possible trade, but his numbers are not good in 2017. Whether it is injury or overuse, Britton’s WHIP is 1.750 while his K/9 rate is 5.8. Not closer stuff but, to be fair, he has pitched only 12 innings.
You never know, which is why Britton is worth keeping an eye on.