As trade deadline looms, market grows for Orioles closer Zach Britton, who's 'prepared for whatever'

The Orioles continue to work toward trading closer Zach Britton, and while a deal didn’t appear imminent Monday night, the club believes one could develop quickly because of the level of interest in Britton the Orioles have received, an industry source said.

After being swept in Toronto over the weekend, the Orioles open a seven-game homestand Monday against the Boston Red Sox. With the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline approaching, these will likely be the final days for Britton, the organization’s longest-tenured player, in an Orioles uniform.

Britton’s market is growing, especially with top relievers such as Brad Hand, Jeurys Familia and Kelvin Herrera having already been traded. The Orioles closer continues to build on strong performances after returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon that delayed his season debut by 2½ months. At least six teams have reportedly shown interest in Britton.

He has recorded eight straight scoreless appearances, allowing just three hits over that eight-inning stretch while cutting his season ERA in half, to 3.45. Opponents are hitting just .125 against Britton over his past eight outings.

"We knew he was going to have some hiccups along the way, but you can just tell his body language,’’ Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He's in a good place, I think … really fresh arm. I think he's going to have a real solid rest of the season."

Britton has had to deal with trade-related speculation since this time last year, when the Orioles shopped him unsuccessfully at the deadline. This year, facing his share of trade-related media inquiries, he’s worked his way back from offseason surgery while the national media obsessed over the future of teammate Manny Machado.

"This has been going on for a while, so I think he's handling it well,” Showalter said Monday. “Can't speak for everybody. Everybody is different. I knew Manny would thrive on it. It wouldn't bother Manny at all.

"Manny doesn't mind being in the spotlight. In a different way, Zach doesn't, either. He's lived in a lot of different places, so I think he's prepared for whatever."

“Preliminary offers” between the Orioles and potential trade suitors have been discussed while teams identify players who are available or off the table, according to a source, who said “most clubs are not ruling anything out.”

That suggests the makings of a robust market for Britton, similar to what the Orioles had with Machado. The Orioles fielded offers from eight teams before dealing their All-Star shortstop to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 5-for-1 deal centered around outfield prospect Yusniel Díaz.

Some of the same teams that pursued Britton at last year’s trade deadline, including the Houston Astros and Dodgers, have reportedly shown interest this time around. The Chicago Cubs, Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers have also been connected to Britton.

Though it’s still hard to handicap his field of suitors, an industry source indicated Monday that the Astros are best equipped to deliver the quality minor league talent the Orioles hope to get for Britton. The Red Sox also covet a premier reliever to bolster their pitching staff for the postseason and beyond, but do not appear to have as much to offer.

Whether the Orioles will handle Britton with kid gloves while trade talks progress remains to be seen. Asked whether Britton was available for a four-out save in Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays, Showalter said the team was “juggling a lot of balls” between navigating trades, developing young players and trying to win games. Britton’s last four outings before Saturday’s were two sets of back-to-back appearances (July 9-10 and 14-15).

Showalter turned to rookie left-hander Tanner Scott with two outs in the eighth Sunday, and Scott allowed a game-winning homer to Randal Grichuk. The manager said Monday that he would do “what’s best for the organization.”

"I'm not going to insult your intelligence,” he said. “We all know what's going on here. If somebody hasn't been watching these last seven to 10 outings, not a whole lot's going to happen between now and the end of the month that's going to change anything."

Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

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