Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Justice: Time is right for Orioles to deal Britton

November 15, 2017

Yes, the Orioles will look different after next season, perhaps dramatically different as Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Zach Britton approach free agency.To focus on that part of the story is to miss a larger point about what the Orioles are capable of doing in 2018. They're good enough to

Yes, the Orioles will look different after next season, perhaps dramatically different as Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Zach Britton approach free agency.
To focus on that part of the story is to miss a larger point about what the Orioles are capable of doing in 2018. They're good enough to go back to the playoffs.
Sure, there's some work to be done, especially in the rotation. That's how things work at this point in the offseason. No team is a finished product.
If I'm Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, here's what I do. (And there's nothing baseball writers enjoy more than telling executives how to run their team). I call Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and say, "You know that Zach Britton trade we worked on last summer? How about we try again?"
Here's why that deal makes so much sense and just might be the one that puts the Orioles back in position to contend. At the same time, Britton gives the Astros a closer who is as close to a sure thing as there is in the game (1.00 WHIP since the start of 2014).
Britton is one of the great Orioles of all time and will forever be remembered as one of the players who helped lead a baseball rebirth in Charm City. For that, he'll always have a special place in the hearts and minds of O's fans.
But dealing him to the Astros simply makes too much sense and not just because he's a year away from free agency. For one thing, Duquette would be dealing from his strongest position.
With Darren O'Day, Brad Brach and Mychal Givens, the Orioles still have enough arms capable of getting those final outs. There's few as dominant as Britton, but there aren't many of those anywhere.
Here's why the deal makes sense: The Astros can load up the Orioles with young, controllable starting pitching. Luhnow will not trade his No. 1 pitching prospect, right-hander Forrest Whitley. Nor will he deal right-hander Lance McCullers
But he has an assortment of Major League-ready starters, beginning with right-handers Rogelio Armenteros, Dean Deetz and Francis Martes. Would Luhnow discuss right-hander Joe Musgrove, who was very good in relief after shifting to the bullpen at midseason but still desires to start?

Because Britton is a year from free agency and because he had knee and forearm issues in 2017, this will not be a five-for-one deal. Besides that, Luhnow will cast a wide net.
What if the Blue Jays make 22-year-old Roberto Osuna available? He suddenly becomes one of the most coveted players this offseason. But the price will be high.
To trade Osuna, who is three years from free agency, the Blue Jays will begin the conversation by asking for outfielder Kyle Tucker, the Astros' No. 1 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com.
That's a non-starter. Unless the Angels are offering Michael Trout -- and they won't be -- Luhnow is not going to trade Tucker.
What Duquette needs is simpler: Competent starting pitchers to come in and compete for the three rotation spots behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. It's possible that Duquette can land, say, two high-ceiling arms and another prospect-type arm who would dramatically change the look of the Orioles as they head to Spring Training.
Regardless of what happens with the free agents, here's betting the Orioles are able to re-sign Jones and maybe one more player. With the emergence of left fielder Trey Mancini and one more season of Machado, Jones, etc., the Orioles have a chance for a fourth postseason run with this group.
In Duquette, they have one of the game's most innovative and smartest executives. In Buck Showalter, they have a manager who is one of the gold standards in the entire sport.
Machado is a resplendent talent, a generational-type player, and don't be surprised if team owner Peter Angelos is able to persuade him to make a long-term commitment to the Orioles.
That's a discussion for another day. What matters in the short term is that the O's have a chance to make another October run. But the path might just start with the Astros and Orioles chatting again and this time finding common ground.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.