Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton is coming off a remarkable 2016 campaign where he saved a league-leading 47 games while posting a 0.54 ERA. The performance was good enough to earn him a fourth place finish in the Cy Young vote. Although this season has been injury-ridden, Britton’s reputation supersedes everything else.
Weeks before the deadline, trade rumors involving Britton are circulating. The Los Angeles Dodgers are heavily interested in the southpaw reliever. This would give them an unstoppable one-two punch with Britton in the eighth inning and closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth. Before he heads there, the Washington Nationals must check in with the Orioles on how much Britton might cost.
Surely, the Orioles aren’t going to let Britton go without getting a lot in return. They may even let the television dispute with the Nationals factor into this. Why help the Nationals steal away more viewers and fans by handing them their missing piece?
Aside from this personal spite, one must ask another important question: is Britton actually a fit for the Nationals?
Britton would undoubtedly improve the Nationals bullpen. He’d secure the ninth inning for them and provide this relief again next season when he remains arbitration eligible. His presence in 2017 and 2018 would allow Koda Glover all of next season to adjust at the big league level until he presumably takes over for Britton.
The bigger concern is Britton’s salary. The Nationals are already on a tight budget with many big expenditures on payroll. This is what allegedly stopped them from a trade for David Robertson in the offseason.
No major contracts are coming off the books next season aside from Jayson Werth. Much of his salary will go toward raises for arbitration-eligible players or the increase in salaries elsewhere.
Britton is making over $11 million this season and should earn more next year in his final arbitration campaign. This is a lofty total to pay when money is a concern. Since it would also cost the Nationals top-level minor talent, Britton doesn’t seem like the perfect fit.
Beyond Britton, there are other Orioles relievers the Nationals could target. Brad Brach is earning a lot less money and filled in nicely at closer for Britton for most of 2017.
The Orioles farm system is quite barren and would greatly benefit from selling off as many parts as possible this July. Even if it’s not Britton the Nationals end up with, there’s a chance someone moves from one Beltway bullpen to another.