If you haven’t been reading MLBTR for the last few days, let me sum things up: #BrittonWatch is the new #MannyWatch. Want more details on the Orioles’ efforts to trade Zach Britton? Here are your links: today; yesterday; weekend.
If you’ve already read all of that, or don’t want to spend an hour of your time doing so now, the bottom line is that there are loads of plausible suitors. Varying reports suggest one or another team has been more or less aggressive to this point with offers. On the whole, though, there’s no clear indication that a certain club is closing in on an acquisition.
Rather, it seems the Orioles are waiting for someone to come forward with a compelling offer. The Baltimore organization likely feels rather optimistic about the bidding situation. There a broad slate of interest, with nearly every plausible contender mentioned of late as a potential landing spot. Notably, in some cases, getting Britton would also mean keeping him from another a rival.
Despite Britton’s injury history and lack of a recent track record, moreover, his high-powered recent showing has also perhaps separated him by a significant margin from the remainder of the lefty relief market. Assuming the Pirates don’t move Felipe Vazquez, the rest of the possibilities look decidedly less appealing than Britton (at least, a healthy and performing version of him). Zach Duke is probably the next-best rental southpaw, followed by pitchers like Jake Diekman, Jerry Blevins, and Luis Avilan.
So, #BrittonWatch it is, and while he’s the topic of the day, we might as well engage it. We could debate whether Britton is really as valuable a target as the rumors would suggest, but that’ll ultimately come down to individual teams’ scouting assessments. Perhaps we could also take odds and maintain a leaderboard for pursuers, but just because this is happening in Baltimore doesn’t mean it should be treated like the Preakness. Instead, I thought it’d be worthwhile to review briefly each contender’s case for pursuing Britton before polling MLBTR’s readers as to where they think he will end up.
- Astros: They don’t really need Britton, but then they don’t really need much of anything. Tony Sipp has been quite good, and youngster Cionel Perez is another big arm from the left side, but it doesn’t hurt to bring in another piece to match up with. And there’s broader uncertainty at the back of the ’Stros pen following the demotion of Ken Giles, so Britton’s experience in the ninth could also be a factor. (H/t to MLBTR commenter Mr. MacPhisto for pointing out that I had missed this aspect of the Astros situation.) Perhaps Houston won’t chase the market, but if the organization decides Britton is its top target, then why not?
- Braves: There’s cause to add elsewhere, to be sure, but the back of the bullpen is arguably the area that the Atlanta organization is most in need. With Arodys Vizcaino out for a while longer, the team can’t just sit back and hope he returns. Especially if it turns out to be too costly to get a quality rotation upgrade, the Braves could really stand to add here. Then again, the club has other left-handed options (including top late-inning arm A.J. Minter), so perhaps if it’s going to cough up precious prospects, it would be better served going after a righty (especially one with future control).
- Brewers: It’s tough to see this match representing a true priority given the club’s rotation concerns. Plus, Josh Hader is something like a multi-inning version of peak Britton, while Dan Jennings has been a useful match-up option. Then again, perhaps the Milwaukee organization sees some potential for deepening its relief mix in a manner that will take pressure off of the starting staff.
- Cubs: The Brew Crew’s chief immediate rival faces a generally similar situation. In this case, though, getting better from the left side in the pen is of much greater concern. Both Justin Wilson and Brian Duensing have handed out walks like candy, and though Randy Rosario owns a 2.03 ERA, he has also managed just 17 strikeouts against 14 walks in his 31 frames.
- Diamondbacks: Left-handed relief help isn’t an obvious need. Andrew Chafin has been quite good and T.J. McFarland is getting grounders like he’s Britton while cutting down opposing lefties at will (though he’s also averaging just 4.7 K/9). That said, if the team simply wants to get another quality arm into its relief unit, it could see an opportunity to replace Jorge De La Rosa.
- Dodgers: Luxury tax considerations make this a tough fit, perhaps, and there may not be a ton of urgency with Tony Cingrani set to return and a trio of southpaws already on the active roster. That said, these teams have already proven they can line up on a major deal this summer and the Dodgers may feel the pen is the best remaining area to improve.
- Giants: The CBA tax factors even larger here, but the San Francisco organization has shown itself willing to give up some young talent to shed salary, so there’s no reason it wouldn’t at least consider upping its offer if the O’s are willing to keep some of Britton’s hefty obligation. Of course, there are plenty of southpaw options already on hand for the Giants, and it seems they are in need of more than a finishing piece if they are to stay in the hunt down the stretch.
- Phillies: Money isn’t a problem for the Phils. Improving the late-inning mix, especially from the left side, definitely looks like a need. Though Austin Davis has opened some eyes with a strong debut thus far, he’s still green. Lefty specialist Adam Morgan has been solid, but hardly dominant, against opposing southpaws and has been knocked around by righties.
- Red Sox: The Boston roster is flat-out dominating right now, and certainly doesn’t need a closer. But there’s said to be an interest in adding a significant arm to the back of the pen and it stands to reason that the club will target a southpaw. Vazquez might be a dream get for the Sox, as he’d represent a future closing option when Craig Kimbrel leaves, but otherwise it’s not hard to imagine the club focusing on Britton. (The Orioles, of course, would likely want to leave talks with retribution for having sent Eduardo Rodriguez to the Sox for Andrew Miller years back.)
- Rockies: While the Rockies already invested quite a lot of their resources into the bullpen, the results haven’t been there, especially from the lefties. Jake McGee and Chris Rusin have struggled; Mike Dunn is on the shelf after a very rough start. It’d hurt to pour yet more into the relief unit, but there’s an argument that it’s a primary need for this ballclub.
- Yankees: The rotation is clearly the area to target for the Yanks, who now have a big gap to make up in the division. But the acquisitions likely won’t stop there. Chasen Shreve has been bombed by lefties thus far (.255/.368/.574), and top southpaw Aroldis Chapman functions as a closer rather than a setup man, so it’s sensible to think the New York organization will seek an upgrade. Funds will be a consideration, at least, given the club’s other needs and the luxury tax line.
So, which team do you think is most likely to land Britton? (Link for app users.)