Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton didn’t win the American League Cy Young Award. He didn’t even finish among the top three, much to the consternation of his skipper.

“It’s shocking,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Britton‘s snub, per MASN’s Roch Kubatko.  

Here’s another shock that could hit Orioles nation: the sight of Britton leaving via trade.

Kubatko recently floated the notion, though he added O’s executive vice president Dan Duquette “is adamant” Britton isn’t going anywhere.

So take what follows with the requisite grain of salt, and don’t mash the panic button if you’re a Baltimore fan and an ardent Britton booster.

Still, the idea has merit. Designated hitter/outfielder Mark Trumbowho signed a one-year deal, $9.15 million deal with the Orioles last season and proceeded to lead MLB with 47 home runsfigures to have multiple suitors. Catcher Matt Wieters is likewise a free agent.

The Orioles plan to hang back and let the market develop, as Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun reported, and don’t seem likely to be in on the handful of high-impact players.

That means if they want to get better, a trade is the path to take.

Moving Britton would sting—no argument there.

The 28-year-old left-hander had one of the best seasons ever by a relief pitcher, posting a 0.54 ERA in 67 innings with 74 strikeouts and 47 saves.

His season ended on a sour note when Showalter left him languishing in the bullpen in the Orioles’ crushing 5-2, 11-inning loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card Game.

Other than that and the Cy Young rebuke, however, virtually everything came up Britton

So why would Baltimore dream of letting him go?

For one, the Orioles have a deep pen that features right-handers Brad Brach (2.05 ERA, 79 innings, 92 strikeouts) and Mychal Givens (3.13 ERA, 74.2 innings, 96 strikeouts), each of whom has the stuff and results to slot in as a closer.

And they have a farm system Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter ranked No. 29 in the game. A package that included MLB-ready talent and younger, developing studs could boost the O’s in 2017 and, more importantly, set them up for success down the road. 

Remember, they compete in the AL East, where the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox not only have deep pockets, but also the No. 1 and No. 4 farm systems, per Reuter

Granted, there are multiple top-shelf closers available via free agency, including Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon.

Britton, though, is set to hit the market after the 2018 campaign and his agent is Scott Boras, which means he will be angling to swim in money, Scrooge McDuck style. 

He’s been excellent for a few seasons, posting ERAs of 1.65 and 1.92 in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and making two straight All-Star teams.

This could be his sell-high moment, however. Relievers are notoriously mercurial creatures—brilliant one year, mediocre the next. 

As’s Buster Olney noted, “the relief market has exploded so much that Baltimore should at least go through the due-diligence process of asking other teams what they’d give up for Britton.”

Baltimore can hold out for a gaudy package. Maybe the Los Angeles Dodgers lose Jansen and are willing to part with a top pitching prospect such as Jose De Leon. Or perhaps the Yankees whiff on Chapman and dip into their MiLB reserve (that’s doubtful, given the division rivalry, but possible).

The safe money is on Britton staying put. There are enough free-agent options to satiate closer-starved contenders, with names like high-upside reclamation project Greg Holland and solid veteran Brad Ziegler also available.

Baltimore needs to pick up the phone, though, and maintain an open mind. Sometimes, you have to give up something great for the greater good.


All statistics courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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