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Cubs trade target: Zach Britton

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The Cubs need a closer. Here’s a possible acquisition, according to one report.

Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images

If the Cubs don’t re-sign Wade Davis — and I’m still hoping they do — they will need to acquire someone else to close games, because there doesn’t seem to be a good internal option, at least for 2018.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports writes of one possibility:

The Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers are two of the teams that have spoken to the Baltimore Orioles about star closer Zach Britton, sources tell FanRag Sports. It is believed that a couple other teams also have checked in on Britton, one of the game’s best closers.

The Orioles are said to be willing to at least listen on Britton since they need to reallocate monies for the rotation, he’s expected to get upwards of $13 million via arbitration after making $11.4 million last year — high for a small-to-medium market like Baltimore — and he’s a free agent after the year.

Britton was a lights-out closer for the Orioles from 2014-16, and his 2016 season was one of the best in history for a closer: just four earned runs in 67 innings, one home run allowed (and that was in his fourth game of 2016), a WHIP of 0.867 and 47 saves with no blown saves.

He started out well in 2017, a 1.00 ERA and five saves in his first eight games, though there were warning signs that something wasn’t right. He allowed 12 hits and four walks in nine innings in those eight games.

A forearm strain kept him out for two months, and when he returned in July he wasn’t good. For that month: 12 games, 11 innings, 4.91 ERA, 1.545 WHIP.

His numbers were a bit better later in the year and once he returned to the closer’s role he put together 15 saves with just one blown save, although he still issued too many walks: 10 in 13⅓ innings.

The thing that would make me back off a bit from trading for Britton isn’t his somewhat worse performance in 2017. It’s the arbitration figure quoted in Heyman’s article. If you’re going to spend “upwards of $13 million” on a closer, why not just re-sign Davis? That’s especially true since Britton is eligible for free agency after 2018 and thus if the Cubs did trade for him, they’d find themselves in the same position a year from now, looking for a closer.

If the Britton of 2018 could be the Britton of 2016, absolutely you’d want that, as he helped the Orioles into the wild-card game that year (where Buck Showalter famously did not use him in extra innings and the O’s lost).

The Heyman article suggests that Baltimore’s desire to trade Britton is to save money, so he might not cost too much in terms of prospects.

I’m kind of ambivalent on this one. For the money mentioned, I think I’d just as soon have Davis, who is two years older than Britton.

Your turn.

Poll

Zach Britton...

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Trade for him no matter the cost in players
    (21 votes)
  • 63%
    Trade for him only if the deal is right
    (577 votes)
  • 34%
    Too risky. Pass.
    (313 votes)
911 votes total Vote Now