There’s nothing like an impending deadline to make everyone involved in a situation get serious about it. You have probably experienced this yourself at some point in your school or work life. So it is too for baseball teams, including the Orioles, as the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. It’s put up or shut up time for deals, including potential ones for the O’s closer, Zach Britton.
Depending on which reporter’s rumor you read at which time, you might come away with completely different pictures about what’s going to happen with Britton, or not happen, some time over the next couple of hours. Teams are either in or out, thinking Britton will or won’t be traded, all shifting depending on which person talked to which reporter at which time.
An hour ago, a deal seemed likely to at least one person:
The perception of O's is they have been purposefully moving toward a trade of Zach Britton. Evaluator: "I'd be shocked if he doesn't move."— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 31, 2017
On the other hand, the Orioles treatment of Britton was also described in much less certain terms by Ken Rosenthal:
Sources: #Astros continuing to talk with #Orioles about Britton. Interested clubs continuing to find it difficult to get a read on BAL.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 31, 2017
Rosenthal added subsequently that there is an executive of another team involved in the process who believes that the O’s and Astros making a deal is “close” with the Astros interest being “serious.”
Any Astros pursuit of Britton would be in addition to their already working out an agreement (reportedly, not finalized) to acquire Francisco Liriano from the Blue Jays. That appears to be a move more to shore up their left-handed reliever role. Britton, as we know, is much better than just a LOOGY.
The Orioles haven’t even ruled out trading Britton to the Nationals, who are hard up for relief help:
o's haven't ruled out trading w/rival nats. we'll see. seek big prospect back (like robles/soto, marte/tucke, verdugo/buehler)— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 31, 2017
As Heyman notes, the Nationals do have the kind of “top, top guys” the Orioles are said to be seeking in order to trade Britton. The Nationals, however, might have to trade even more in order to get him:
Re: Nationals potentially dealing for Britton, source says WAS "would have to pay almost double any other team" for O's to send him to Nats.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) July 31, 2017
While the part of me that regularly trolls the Nationals finds this hilarious, one has to admit that from the standpoint of running a baseball team, this is not the most productive attitude to have.
The Indians are looking to get a reliever before the deadline. The Dodgers, who definitely have “top, top guys,” are still in on Britton with about two hours to go.
At this point, it’s probably a question of who blinks first. Does a team panic and up its offer, or do the Orioles decide that this is the best they’re going to get and pull the trigger with one of their suitors?
But they can’t wait too long, because if somebody gives up and goes to trade for someone else instead, then the O’s won’t get anything... except Britton’s services for the rest of this year and next year. That’s not nothing. It is, however, not certain how much Britton being good (if he’s still healthy and good) in the ninth inning will really help the 2017 or 2018 Orioles get anywhere.
It’s going to be a wild couple of hours. Stay tuned!