Chicago Cubs: A couple scenarios regarding Zach Britton
Zach Britton as a closer for the Chicago Cubs in 2018? Maybe. But what about the idea of Britton and Wade Davis on a team for 2018 and beyond?
On Monday the possibility of Zach Britton being dealt, possibly to the Chicago Cubs, resurfaced.
In addition to the Cubs, there were various scenarios that linked the Orioles‘ lefty to the Dodgers and Astros during last July’s trade deadline. Kenley Jansen embraced the idea of Britton on the Dodgers. Houston would have paired him with closer Ken Giles, and the Cubs had Davis.
The idea of a super bullpen is all the rage in Major League Baseball.
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From Chicago’s perspective, and in light of what transpired last season and through the playoffs with their own bullpen struggles, maybe paying that premium for two elite relievers is a way to go.
If the Cubs acquired Britton, it would be the third consecutive year the Cubs had a closer in a contract year, something they might rather shy away from. He could very well be the closer for the 2018 Cubs, which could force Wade Davis elsewhere in free agency.
But think about the possibility of the two co-existing on the same team, assuming Britton accepted a setup role.
Well, that’s unlikely but not impossible to imagine.
What could complicate matters
MLB Trade Rumors predicted Britton could make $12.2 million in arbitration this winter. What could work is that the Orioles might be willing to eat salary, but what do the Cubs realistically have to offer in the way of a trade? And since the O’s would eat salary, they’re undoubtedly hoping to make up for that in a talent haul.
Victor Caratini is a bright young catcher.
Though I could see him as a potential backup to Willson Contreras in the near future, he’s likely a trade chip in every scenario. The Cubs might opt to bring back Rene Rivera who is the prototypical veteran backup, and had success with the Cubs in a short sample.
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Welington Castillo opted to become a free agent, and while the Birds do have Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco on the 40-man roster, the latter only has 10 ML games under his belt.
And of course, there might be other trade targets, with Ian Happ, and pitching prospect Duane Underwood to name a few.
What does Chicago consider worthy of a trade for a potential free agent?
This could depend on if they, or Davis, decided to part ways, intensifying the need for a closer. Maybe any trade opens the idea of an agreed upon contract extension in principle, though unlikely.
As said earlier, and according to Patrick Mooney, Theo Epstein might not want to deal any more controllable assets for a one-year contract. A trade could entice itself more if a deal revolves around another player coming back with Britton.
Another potential complication is Britton, while excellent in 2016, was handcuffed by forearm ailments in 2017. Last season he made just 38 relief appearances, converted 15/17 save opportunities, and had 2.89 ERA.
Though a smaller sample, and unfair to compare to his nearly flawless 2016 campaign, batters had a much easier time, comparatively speaking, slashing .277/.356/.333. Britton’s K/9 fell to 6.99 from 9.94.
While the injury likely affected his production rates, buyer beware for a pitcher who you hope is more reminiscent of the 2016 version that garnered Cy Young and MVP votes than the one hit by injury.
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If he had the preference, Britton would likely want to close since he can easily market himself as one of the game’s elusive talents, and as he auditions for possible 2019 free agency. This will depend on the available trade partners, and needs of all involved.
Right now the Dodgers and Cubs seem to top that list.