JULY 20, 10:58am: Add the Braves to the list of teams interested in Britton, Crasnick reports.
9:28am: Baltimore’s “barreling ahead” with its Britton trade talks, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweets. Along with the teams mentioned below (the Astros, Cubs, Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox), the Giants are among the clubs in the mix for Britton, according to Crasnick.
JULY 17: If and when the reported trade sending Manny Machado to the Dodgers is formally announced by the teams, the O’s could be quick to turn around and move longtime closer Zach Britton in a separate deal, reports MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli (via Twitter). Interest in Britton has “picked up steam” recently, according to Ghiroli.
Britton missed about half of the 2017 season due to a pair of forearm injuries and was out until June 2018 due to a ruptured Achilles tendon that required offseason surgery. And while his first few appearances since coming off the disabled list raised questions about his trade value, he’s looked more impressive lately.
Britton’s past seven appearances have been scoreless, but beyond the bottom-line results, he’s made some encouraging gains in terms of sinker velocity. His ground-ball rate has been a superlative 68.8 percent in that time as well — a noted increase from his earlier outings in which his sinker wasn’t at its most effective levels. That’s not quite to up to Britton’s (quite literally) historic standards, but it remains elite all the same.
Control has still been somewhat of an issue, as he’s surrendered three walks in those seven innings and thrown a first-pitch strike to just 40 percent of the hitters he’s faced along the way. But there’s no denying that Britton has begun to round into form at a most opportune time for an Orioles organization that, at the very least, looks to be a lock to trade the left-hander and fellow impending free agents Machado and Brad Brach.
Britton is earning $12MM in 2018, which will present a roadblock for a number of clubs interested in acquiring his services. As could be the case with the eventual Machado deal, the Orioles might have to include some cash to facilitate the deal and to improve the return they receive for their prized lefty. Britton is still owed about $4.8MM of that $12MM sum through season’s end.
To this point, the Astros, Cubs, Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox have all been connected to Britton in fairly prominent fashion. Surely, as is the case every summer, though, the top relievers on the market will draw at least some level of inquiry from the majority of contenders. Unlike the Machado saga, in which some contending clubs had little need for another infielder on the left side of the diamond, there’s no contending team in baseball that won’t have some interest in bolstering its relief corps. Certainly, some teams will consider it to be a more pressing need than others, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise if as much as a third of the league is tied to Britton before he inevitably finds himself with a new team for the first time in his career.