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Zach Britton could shake up Trade Deadline

MLB.com @feinsand

Zach Britton's return on June 12 added another tested relief arm to the trade market, but the Orioles' closer is still getting his legs under him after missing the first two-plus months of the season following Achilles surgery.

The left-hander blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning Friday in Atlanta, and Britton has walked as many hitters as he's struck out through seven appearances, leading some to wonder how long it might take for him to return to the dominant form that made him one of the best closers in the game from 2014-16.

Zach Britton's return on June 12 added another tested relief arm to the trade market, but the Orioles' closer is still getting his legs under him after missing the first two-plus months of the season following Achilles surgery.

The left-hander blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning Friday in Atlanta, and Britton has walked as many hitters as he's struck out through seven appearances, leading some to wonder how long it might take for him to return to the dominant form that made him one of the best closers in the game from 2014-16.

"Teams may wait as long as possible to trade for him," one scout said. "If the Orioles hope to get a real prospect for him, he's going to have to cut down on the walks."

Britton's sinker is averaging 93.8 mph, down from the 96-plus he was throwing over the past three years. Batters are also hitting the ball harder against Britton this season than in the past, the average exit velocity coming in at 90.3 mph, up from 86.8 mph last season.

Is the 30-year-old still working himself back into shape, or is this a pitcher beginning to show signs of a decline?

"It's something to watch, that's for sure," one general manager said.

Video: SEA@BAL: Britton begins 1-2-3 double play in the 9th

Britton is one of three Baltimore relievers who could be on the move, the others being Brad Brach and Darren O'Day. Even with Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera having already been moved, the relief market is expected to be busy with names such as Brad Hand, Raisel Iglesias and Shane Greene potentially available as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

Other relievers who could be available include Kyle Barraclough, Tyler Clippard, Jake Diekman, Jeurys Familia, Joakim Soria, Keone Kela, Blake Treinen and Brad Ziegler.

The Indians and Astros are two teams searching for bullpen help, while the Braves, Angels, Red Sox and Phillies are among the teams that may also be in the market for a relief arm -- or two.

Of course, as the GM warned, a glut of available arms means it's quite possible none bring back anything close to an Aroldis Chapman/Andrew Miller type of haul if it turns into a buyer's market.

"There are so many relievers available, there's no reason to overpay," the GM said. "And as other teams become sellers, the market could become flooded with even more arms."

Perhaps the Rays and Royals were wise to deal their closers early in the trade season.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

Zach Britton