One question hanging over the Orioles relates to their bullpen and whether they should deal from their strength.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette is adamant that the Orioles aren’t trading closer Zach Britton. However, what about a team that wants Brad Brach or Mychal Givens, perhaps viewing them as potential ninth inning specialists?
The Orioles have holes to fill in right field and at designated hitter. They want a veteran catcher to improve their depth. They’re considering a right-handed bat to platoon with Hyun Soo Kim in left field. It’s not unreasonable to debate whether they should dip into their bullpen to address their needs.
Their relievers posted a 3.40 ERA that led the American League and ranked third in the majors behind the Dodgers (3.35) and Nationals (3.37). Meanwhile, the rotation showed improvement late in the season but still finished with a 4.72 ERA that ranked 13th in the league and 24th in the majors.
Brach is arbitration-eligible again and projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to make $2.9 million next season after earning his first berth in the All-Star Game. He’s actually a bargain as prices keep rising for quality relievers.
The Cardinals reportedly are giving Brett Cecil $30.5 million over four years after his ERA rose from 2.48 to 3.93 and his WHIP from 0.957 to 1.282. Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen will do more than break the bank. They’re going to reduce it to a pile of dust.
Is anyone really sweating Britton’s projected $11.4 million salary?
My take on the Orioles is they’re more inclined to add to their strength. Protect the rotation by shortening the games, as more teams are doing.
(It’s easier in the playoffs, of course, due to the days off.)
Got a good bullpen? Make it great. Got a great ‘pen? Make it dominant.
The Orioles won’t ignore it despite more urgent needs in other areas. They’re open to acquiring another right-hander and a lefty who perhaps could be used as a specialist.
“We have a real solid bullpen,” Duquette said last week on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “That’s been one of the staples of the team the last couple of years when we’ve been very competitive. That’s something that Buck (Showalter) does really well. He manages it very precisely, gets the most out of the players. And we saw Zach Britton develop and be the best pitcher in the league this year by perfecting his sinker. That’s going to remain a strength for the team.
“I hope that we can add a couple of players from our minor league system like we added (Donnie) Hart this year, like we added Givens last year to come up and bolster that bullpen and give us a little bit more depth. And I hope that we can do that for next season.
“Britton we have for a couple more years. I really like what he did for us. And you saw the value of the relievers in the postseason, the way that Terry Francona and Joe Maddon used their closers. They were both acquired in trades during the season. (Andrew) Miller, of course, was traded by the Yankees to the Indians and they gave up a lot of their farm system to get him. And then Chapman, the same to the Cubs.”
Britton isn’t a free agent until after the 2018 season and he’d certainly bring in a nice return if the Orioles were willing to trade him. But they don’t want to punch that big of a hole in the back end of their bullpen.
They don’t want to deal from their strength.
“I’d rather see Zach Britton on our team,” Duquette said, “than I would to trade him right now.”