Thoughts on Brach as closer

Within a day of the Winter Meetings, the Orioles seemed to move from the trade to free agent market. Teams were asking too much in return, especially in the way of prospects.

“That’s a fluid situation,” executive vice president Dan Duquette said last week on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “The market’s dynamic, the market’s always moving and there’s so many players on the market with the 30 teams.”

Brad Brach was on the market in the right deal, with talks including the Mets and Braves. Duquette indicated that the club had enough bullpen depth to subtract a reliever, though he didn’t single out Brach or anyone else.

Closer Zach Britton stands alone while Duquette keeps insisting that the left-hander is off limits. He’s not interested in trade proposals, not with Britton under team control through 2018 and coming off such a dominant season.

brad-brach-throwing-front-white.pngThe argument for parting with Brach centers on the demand for relievers and how the Orioles may be able to get a right fielder in return. His ERA in three seasons with the Orioles has dropped from 3.18 to 2.72 to 2.05. His WHIP was lowered from 1.197 last year to 1.038, his strikeouts per nine innings over the last three years rising from 7.8 to 10.1 to 10.5. He’s 22-8 in three seasons since the Orioles acquired him from the Padres for Double-A pitcher Devin Jones.

MLBTradeRumors.com projects that Brach will be paid $2.9 million next season. There are teams that could pursue him as a closer, making him quite a bargain considering today’s cost.

As I wrote last week at the Winter Meetings, Brach was a prolific closer in the minors with 33 saves with Single-A Fort Wayne in 2009, 41 saves with Single-A Lake Elsinore in 2010 and 34 combined saves with Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson in 2011.

Should the Orioles hold onto Brach and consider him as a possible successor to Britton if the left-hander suddenly becomes available next winter or deemed too expensive in his current role?

Duquette hasn’t addressed the successor theory, but he believes that Brach can be a ninth-inning specialist and it’s driving up his value in the trade market.

“I think he’s a closer,” Duquette said. “He was a big time closer in the minors, had some excellent stats when he was in that role. He strikes out a lot more than he walks and he’s got that split-finger. That’s a good pitch against lefties and righties. He’s done it.

“Whenever he’s been given the responsibility here, he’s responded, so there’s no question in my mind that Brad Brach can close. Fortunately, we have a couple other good pitchers on the staff. I think (Mychal) Givens can develop into a closer. He’s an outstanding fielder. If he gets a little bit more consistent with his off-speed stuff against lefties, he’s going to be able to close, too. And he’s young, he’s a tiger.

“You saw how he pitched against the Blue Jays. Seven up, seven down in the playoffs. He went right through that lineup at a time when it really counted, and I’ve just got a lot of faith in Mychal Givens that he’s going to develop into a closer, too.”

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