Chicago Cubs do not need Zach Britton to solve ninth-inning question
By Erik Mauro
The Hot Stove continues with rumors the Chicago Cubs have talked with the Baltimore Orioles about closer Zach Britton.
Three things are certain in life. Death, taxes, and trade rumors during the MLB offseason. Sure enough, with the GM meetings starting up this week, the rumors are floating again. Giancarlo Stanton will not accept a trade to the Cardinals or Red Sox, and the Chicago Cubs are intrigued by the Orioles’ Zach Britton, with some reports saying the Cubs had already had talks with the O’s about him. This should come as no surprise, as the Cubs were linked to Britton at the trade deadline as well.
Britton spent parts of 2017 on the disabled list but still posted a respectable 2.89 ERA with a 3.40 FIP. Not bad, right? Well, considering in his 2016 season, he never blew a save, posting a 0.54 ERA, with a 1.94 FIP. In 2016, Britton had a .230 BABIP, compared to .336 in 2017. But, perhaps the most alarming thing is the K/BB rate.
In 2016, Britton averaged 9.94 K/9, compared to 6.99 K/9 in 2017. As for the BB rate? Well, in 2016, he averaged just 2.42 BB/9, whereas in 2017 he averaged 4.34 BB/9. His early career walk bugaboo seemed to have returned. A little regression after a dominant year was expected, but since being converted to a reliever, this was by far his worst season.
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Now, was this because of injury or just natural regression? That remains to be seen, but the Orioles may have missed their chance to maximize his value when they didn’t trade him at the deadline this season.
Along with the Cubs, the Astros and Dodgers also had interest, and there were talks that a deal was close, but owner Peter Angelos decided to hold onto him at the very last second.
How the Cubs can manage
What the Cubs have done the past two seasons, isn’t exactly effective in the long-term. It worked for the season, sure, but Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have never had a long-term closer.
They’ve had lockdown closers in Aroldis Chapman and Wade Davis. The Cubs didn’t re-sign Chapman, but they have a better shot at Davis. Wade had a better season than Britton, but even Wade’s walk rate walk rate was inflated, and he comes with some risk.
Next: Arrieta to the Cardinals?
Do the Cubs insert Carl Edwards, Jr into the closer’s role in 2018? The Cubs don’t need Zach Britton because of Wade Davis, who was already with the Cubs and is familiar with the team. Don’t be surprised if Davis re-signs with the Cubs to shore up the back of the bullpen, all the while not giving up any major league talent to acquire Britton.