Baltimore Orioles: Should they trade Zach Britton for a starting pitcher?
When a team like the Baltimore Orioles is sitting at or near the bottom, the trade deadline decision becomes a real issue.
As of yet, no one in the media knows if the Baltimore Orioles will be buyers or sellers when the July 31 trade deadline comes around.
The Orioles have five series to complete between now and the deadline with a total of 17 games. They only have one division series against the Tampa Bay Rays during that time. The other series include games against the Chicago Cubs, the Houston Astros, and a pair of series against the Texas Rangers. On the day of the deadline, the Birds begin a series against the Kansas City Royals.
The Birds only have one division series against the Tampa Bay Rays during that time. The other series include games against the Chicago Cubs, the Houston Astros, and a pair against the Texas Rangers. On the day of the deadline, the Birds begin a series against the Kansas City Royals.
All of these teams offer tough competition and with the O’s pitching situation, the outcomes for the Birds probably won’t be very good.
Since there is a glaringly obvious need for pitching, Dan Duquette should do something prior to the deadline. It doesn’t matter if the Orioles lose all 17 games or they happen to win them all, the team needs pitching. And good pitching does not come cheap.
Unfortunately, the Orioles are not in a prime position to buy or sell. There are only a few prospects who could be of value to teams who have pitchers to trade away. But, the team does have a few on the 25-man roster that could be of interest.
One of the most valuable pieces on the roster is Zach Britton. There are only a few teams that do not need a closer. Britton could bring some prospects to the Orioles or if he were paired with a player or two, he could bring a veteran starter to the team. Despite Britton’s recent injury, his last outing showed promise.
Britton is still under team control with one more year of arbitration, and his $11.4 million salary is comparable to other closers. The Rays, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers have bullpens that put fear in batters, but there are plenty of other teams with playoff hopes that could use closing pitchers. There are also teams without any hopes who could use arms to fill their bullpens. Closers are in such high demand that the Orioles could even trade Brad Brach or package him with Britton and get some valuable pieces.
A few potentially available pitchers
According to the Jeff Todd’s post on MLB Trade Rumors, there are a few pitchers that could be available at the deadline. Near the top of his “Top 60 Trade Deadline Candidates,” a few arms stand out. Sonny Gray is one of them. The young right-handed pitcher (he’s only 27) has a 4.00 ERA in 2017 and a career ERA of 3.49. None of the Orioles starting arms have ERAs under 4.00. Only Dylan Bundy is close with his 4.33 ERA. At $3.6 million, Gray is a bargain waiting to be snapped up.
One other team has a collection of pitchers that they might be willing to sell: the San Francisco Giants. Not many teams are performing as poorly as they are, so a sell-off could happen. Todd suggested these pitchers could possibly be available at the deadline:
"“41. Jeff Samardzija (Giants), Johnny Cueto (Giants), Gerrit Cole (Pirates), Ervin Santana (Twins) & J.A. Happ (Blue Jays), SP (LR: 41, 41, 41, 45, NR): Happ joins this group of quality starters, all of whom would hold clear trade interest– if they are made available. Their respective teams’ inclinations remain unclear; while the Giants would no doubt be glad to achieve a return on Cueto, his situation remains complicated by his pending opt-out clause.”More from Orioles NewsBaltimore Orioles Sign RP Mychal GivensGunnar Henderson: Destroyer of Four-Seam FastballsWhich Current Baltimore Orioles Pitchers Have the Best Curveballs?Orioles News: Should the O’s Pursue Eovaldi? + More MLB NewsShould the Baltimore Orioles Consider Signing Nathan Eovaldi?"
Samardzija and Cueto are both hovering around a 4.50 ERA. While both pitchers are still throwing quality stuff, they do have serious prices attached to them. The Giants still owe Cueto upwards of $100 million and they owe the Shark close to $80 million. Those are dollars that could buy Justin Verlander from the Tigers, but overpriced, aging pitchers aren’t what the Orioles need.
The other three pitchers on Todd’s list could be more affordable, but their availability is also questionable. The Minnesota Twins have spent most of the season atop the AL Central with Santana who is having his best year ever with a 2.99 ERA. He’s even got four complete games and three shutouts. Happ is having a typical year with an ERA in the mid-threes and Cole is not pitching as well as he usually does.
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Despite the fact that there could be recognizable arms with good stuff available, the Orioles might be better off getting their hands on prospects. Duquette will need to decide soon what direction he wants to take the team. Does he want to try to build some wins now or build for the future? Or, is he happy with the status quo? We should find out soon.