The Baltimore Orioles have an opportunity to “win now” while also building up their minor league system. They can do so by trading from their place of strength and getting solid minor leaguers in return.
The value that teams are placing on closers is extraordinary. Consider this……the Kansas City Royals trade Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Jorge Soler who was the Cubs #3 prospect as recently as 2014 in a stacked farm system. Aroldis Chapman goes back to the Yankees on a 5-year, $86M deal. The San Francisco Giants sign Mark Melancon to a 4-year, $62M contract. The Los Angeles Dodgers re-sign Kenley Jansen to a 5-year, $80M contract. What the heck is going on here? Should the Baltimore Orioles get in the game?
The closer role has become as coveted as a power hitter – perhaps even more so. Can you remember a time when closers garnered this much interest? Granted, starting pitchers are throwing fewer innings requiring more bullpen time and, ultimately, someone to come in and close the game. However, many teams were successful in the past throwing a failed starter (Jose Mesa) or journeyman reliever (Mark Melancon) into the role. At times, the guys thrown into the role were complete unknowns (Tom Henke).
The Orioles are fortunate in that they have potentially 4 guys who could close games in the big leagues. We know about Zach Britton and his 47 saves and 0.54 ERA. The Orioles have Britton under team control for the next 2 seasons as he will be arbitration eligible. The Birds also have Brad Brach with his 2.05 ERA who, like Britton is under team control for the next 2 seasons while he too will be arbitration eligible.. Brach saved 109 games in the minors between 2009 and 2011.
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Darren O’Day has answered the call in 4 of the last 5 seasons. He did have a minor slip-up last season which could be blamed on multiple injuries. Regardless, his 2.11 ERA in 5 seasons with the Orioles is quite impressive. He has also saved 15 games over those 5 seasons. O’Day has 3 years remaining on a new contract he signed last offseason. He is owed $7M this season and $9M in ’18 and ’19. These numbers don’t seem so bad considering the money being thrown at relievers (especially closers) this winter.
Finally, Mychal Givens came into his own last season pitching, holding opponents to a .220 batting average while winning 8 gams and pitching to a 3.13 ERA. Givens was also dominate in the Wild Card game against the Blue Jays pitching 2 1/3 innings of no-hit, 3 strikeout baseball. Givens averaged 11.6 K’s per 9 innings last season and while he also walked 4.3 batters per 9 innings, one has to feel that this will improve as Givens matures as a pitcher. Givens isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2019.
The Baltimore Orioles bullpen is a place of strength and one that we may need due to the inability of our pitchers to get through 6 innings. Still, the Orioles are going to have to take chances by making key trades and building their farm system if they want to field a team that is not just successful this year, but also for years to come. After 2018, the wheels could fall of of the wagon as the team will have 7 key free agents who could hit the market. The list includes Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, Yovani Gallardo, Zach Britton, Wade Miley, Brad Brach and a guy named Manny Machado. The Orioles can’t wait until the last minute to build up their farm system.
The Birds could still be in “win now” mode while trading from their place of strength. Just think what a Zach Britton could return to the club. Yes, their bullpen would be weakened, but it wouldn’t be weak. It would still be a strength. Dan Duquette shouldn’t be so dismissive of making a possible deal. He should listen carefully and seek a haul in return for his Cy Young caliber closer.
What do you think? Should the Birds move Britton? If not Britton, what about Brad Brach? Can the Baltimore Orioles still be a playoff team if they move one of these guys?