Another round of cuts came and went and Zach Britton wasn’t a part of them. This means he will likely get one more spring training start and try to convince coaches to start him on the opening day roster. This brings about an interesting debate. Do you go with your best player or consider the business end of baseball and send your best pitcher down to the minors.
There really is no right or wrong answer here and most likely you are clearly on one side of the fence or the other on this debate. Zach Britton is maybe the best of the Orioles “cavalry”. A left handed pitcher who throws hard with nasty sink. This guy has the potential to form a dominating one-two punch atop the Orioles rotation with Brian Matusz for years to come. On top of that, Britton is the only pitcher of the “cavalry” that has been pitching well this spring. While the other young starters have struggled, Britton has pitched very well this spring and has shown he could easily be ready to start the season in the majors and pitch effectively.
Here is where the business side of the game makes things messy. If the Orioles start Britton in the rotation on opening day, then Britton will be eligible for free agency after the 2016 season. Now a days with the millions and millions of dollars being thrown around this is a very big financial decision. It is an even bigger decision for a team like the Orioles who can’t afford to throw around huge multiyear deals to every single player.
If the Orioles keep Britton down in Triple A until April 21st then he won’t be eligible to go into free agency until after the 2017 season. It may not seem like a big deal now, but come 2016, it would be huge to have Britton on the team for another guaranteed season…especially if he is as good as advertised.
With that said, I am all for sending Britton down to Triple A to start the season. I am usually not one to sacrifice now for the future, even in the case of a team like the Orioles who are built for the future. I truly believe in teams playing every game to win. I personally can’t stand when teams make decisions for the future when they have an opportunity to win now. However, it is not likely the Orioles will be winning anything this season. In addition, we are not talking about a decision that is coming in August or September that could cost the Orioles a couple games when they are in the middle of a playoff run.
At most, Britton would miss three starts because of this move, and as a result, the Orioles could get 30 plus starts in 2017. Some will worry, including me, that this could ruffle Britton’s feathers and anger him. He clearly has pitched better than any of the other Orioles starters and deserves to make the team. However, he has to understand the business side of the game and that really the Orioles would be making this move because they value him so much and they want him in an Orioles uniform for another season. In addition, if something like this would anger Britton to the point where it would become a distraction than the Orioles will need to be seriously concerned about the kids mental makeup. What I mean by that is that there are going to be a lot more instances where the business side of the game comes up and Britton and all major league players need to learn how to not take everything personal.
I say send Britton down to Triple A to start the season. This will also allow him to continue to get more experience in the minors and he can work on throwing less pitches and he can also work on his secondary pitches. This is a crucial decision for the Orioles, Britton, and their fans. So if you are Andy MacPhail and Buck Showalter what do you do? Zach Britton… should he stay or should he go?