Is Orioles' Zach Britton the next late-inning reliever to be swapped as trade deadline looms?

Orioles closer Zach Britton delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre Saturday.
Orioles closer Zach Britton delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre Saturday. (Tom Szczerbowski / Getty Images)

Whether Saturday’s one-inning outing marked closer Zach Britton’s final appearance in an Orioles uniform remains to be seen, but it appears these are among the final days for the organization’s longest-tenured player.

The Orioles have reportedly received interest from contenders for Britton – the Cubs, Dodgers and Astros among them.


Britton recorded his eighth straight scoreless appearance on Saturday in Toronto, issuing a walk and getting a double-play ball for a scoreless eighth. With the Orioles down 4-1, it wasn’t a high-leverage situation, but it continued Britton’s progress from a rocky return from the DL.

“I knew Zach was going to be a little rusty today,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Saturday. “Fortunately, he got the double-play ball. Zach’s fine. He only [has], what 16 outings on the year? He’s probably too strong.”

Over his last eight appearances, he’s held opposing hitters to a .125 batting average while cutting his ERA from 7.04 to 3.45, and during that stretch, his sinker velocity has continued to tick up.

While shopping Manny Machado, the Orioles received some interest in teams wanting to acquire Machado and Britton in a package deal, but the Orioles steered away from that, knowing they wanted to move Machado sooner, but also wanted to let Britton’s market play out closer to the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.

With top relieversBrad Hand, Jeurys Familia and Kelvin Herrera already having switched teams, the attention turns to Britton.

But what can the Orioles expect to get for Britton? The package the Padres received for Hand from the Indians, which included Cleveland’s top prospect – catcher Francisco Mejia – isn’t comparable because Hand isn’t a rental. He still has two seasons left on his club-friendly deal, not to mention a $10-million club option for 2021, so Hand is under Indians control for the next three seasons beyond this year.

The Royals received three prospects from the Nationals for Herrera, but none were top-10 prospects for Washington. The Royals’ package was highlighted by Double-A third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez, who became the eighth best prospect for the Royals, according to MLB Pipeline.

They also received a 21-year-old, switch-hitting, defensive-minded center fielder playing in low-A ball in Blake Perkins and a 17-year-old live-arm Dominican pitcher in Yohanse Morel. Another important thing to note is that the Royals sent Herrera to the Nationals more than a month ago, so an extra month of services improved their return.

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In trading Familia to the A’s on Saturday, the Mets received two promising prospects, but neither is top-tier, along with $1 million in international bonus slot money. They received third baseman William Toffey, a former fourth-rounder playing in high-A who is Oakland’s 17th best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and a live-arm, high-strikeout reliever in right-hander Bobby Wahl, who is averaging 14.7 strikeouts per nine innings at Triple-A. He has a 11.4 strikeouts per nine over his minor-league career.

Still, while the late-inning reliever market is robust – the Orioles will likely move right-hander Brad Brach before the deadline -- it’s apparent it isn’t netting the kind of return that the Yankees received three years ago when they moved pending free-agent Aroldis Chapman and lockdown lefty Andrew Miller, moves that restocked their farm system to make it one of the best in baseball.

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