Zach Britton has been the talk of Baltimore baseball fans ever since the Wild Card game for a various number of reasons. One main topic is the thought of the Orioles trading Britton to get some valuable minor league pieces, which is something we saw from the Yankees when they traded away both Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman this past season.
This may not be a fun topic to talk about, but it is one that needs to be. At least, I think it does. Britton is one of, if not the top reliever in baseball right now and many teams would die to have that kind of asset on their team.
Even a team that is tied in extra innings in an elimination game and could use a guy like Britton. Oh, wait. *sigh*
Nonetheless, we are not here to talk about that. That poor horse died a long time ago. We are here to look at potential fill-ins for Zach Britton if he were to be traded away from the Orioles and who exactly would close out games for the Orioles.
As of right now, there are three obvious candidates that go to mind since they are already on the roster: Mychal Givens, Brad Brach, and Darren O’Day. Let us go through each of these viable options to close games for the Orioles.
The Orioles’ set up man in 2016 had a very decent season which saw him go to the All Star Game at the midway point in the season.
In 79 innings pitched on the season, Brach had a 2.05 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 1.038 WHIP, 2.6 WAR, 81.7 LOB%, and a .199 opponent AVG. That is a good season for a reliever but here is where the concerning feeling comes to light: his numbers were fairly poor in the second half of the season.
In the second half for Brach (31 games), he had an opponent slash line of .270/.325/.400 while having an ERA of 3.94, 13 earned runs allowed, and a 1.382 WHIP. He also went from 58 strikeouts in the first half to only having 34 following the break.
Brach was able to finish 16 games on the season and did convert two saves of his own. I think the main reasons for Brach’s second half decline was a mix of overachieving in the first half to just too much of a workload because of the injury to Darren O’Day during the season.
In his first full season in the Majors, Mychal Givens did a lot to establish himself as a very surprising reliever that has some pretty electric stuff. In 66 games, Givens finished with a 3.13 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 1.272 WHIP, 1.6 WAR, 78.8 LOB%, and a .218 opponent AVG.
The biggest problem I see with Givens is his tendency to walk batter a little more frequently than other relievers. He had a 11.5 BB% in 2016 which was the 2nd highest on the team, min. 20 IP, only trailing Yovani Gallardo who had a BB% of 11.6%.
This is mainly a result of Givens having stuff that breaks very dramatically and inexperience with pitching in general since he came up as a short stop. However, he is still very good considering he only started pitching in 2013.
In the first year of his four year contract, Darren O’Day had a disappointing season performance and health wise. Battling injuries all season does not make out well for a reliever who is in his mid 30’s.
However, in 31 innings, O’Day had a 3.77 ERA, 4.57 FIP, 1.226 WHIP, 0.6 WAR, 85 LOB%, and a .214 opponent AVG. This is easily his worst season since 2011, his last year with the Texas Rangers.
O’Day has been a blessing in disguise for the Orioles ever since their resurgence in 2012 and has now become a staple in the core of the team. With that though, he is the oldest out of the three I have talked about and is coming off a very odd and injury filled season so I would rather him get back to full health than be thrown into one of the more stressful roles in baseball.
As for the free agent market, some interesting names come up for relievers that may garnish quite a bit of attention from certain clubs. Those include Greg Holland, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, Pat Neshek, and Travis Wood. A complete list of all the upcoming free agents can be found here thanks to MLB Trade Rumors.
In this hypothetical world where Zach Britton is traded, my choice for closer would be Mychal Givens. I think his first full season as a reliever was very good and he poses the best threat to hitters with how good his stuff can be on any given night. The obvious worry there is the walk totals and the split between right handed and left handed batters, of which Givens is way better against right handers.
Now, this is not an endorsement to trade away Zach Britton. Merely, it is a floating of ideas considering the circumstances that arise during the offseason when your favorite team had a valued asset that other teams would kill to have. I think the prospect of trading Britton would be interesting from a return standpoint but with how Dan Duquette has run the Orioles in his time, I do not foresee that happening.