Scott Boras, agent for star Orioles closer Zach Britton, doesn’t think the club will be looking to pursue an extension with his client in the near future, Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com reports. Britton has two more years of arbitration eligibility before he hits free agency in the 2018-2019 offseason.
With so much team control remaining, it perhaps isn’t surprising that the O’s are prioritizing other business before getting around to a long-term deal with Britton. Extending Britton now would also be something of a buy-high move given that the closer is in the midst of perhaps his most dominating season yet — an 0.60 ERA, 9.8 K/9 and 3.57 K/BB rate over 60 1/3 innings, plus a stunning 80.4% ground ball rate and a career-best 96.3 mph average fastball velocity. Britton is a perfect 44-for-44 in save opportunities in 2016.
Needless to say, Britton will be getting a healthy raise in his third year of arbitration eligibility. Britton and the O’s avoided arbitration in his first two arb years by agreeing to salaries of $3.2MM for 2015 and $6.75MM for this season. As a Super Two player, Britton is on track for yet another big arbitration payday following the 2017 campaign; if he continues on his current pace, he could be looking at a 2017 salary in the neighborhood of $12-13MM.
Having already achieved quite a bit of financial security, Britton has some negotiating leverage on his side. It could also help he (and Boras) in waiting to discuss an extension until after this offseason, as Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are poised to set new standards for reliever contracts.
From Baltimore’s perspective, there are some arguments for exploring an extension now. Locking Britton up to even a two-year deal through his remaining arb years would get the team some cost certainty. The Orioles have traditionally been wary about signing pitchers to a significant multi-year deals, though they’re more comfortable doing so when it’s an arm they’re already familiar with (i.e. Darren O’Day’s four-year contract last winter). Britton also doesn’t carry a significant health risk; as MLBTR contributor Bradley Woodrum outlined in his study of Tommy John injuries earlier this year, there is a well below-average chance Britton will eventually require TJ surgery.