BY BRIAN REID
We all know how it ended this season. The Orioles’ biggest strength became their greatest weakness, as manager Buck Showalter refused to use the best pitcher in baseball in a winner-take-all game.
The usual bullpen arms had ice in their veins. I genuinely believed someone would have to check Mychal Givens for a pulse. One by one they went out there and showed Orioles’ fans and the nation that they were rock solid.
Since the season ended, people have begun to discuss whether or not the Orioles should trade Zach Britton. They will note the massive haul of picks the New York Yankees received for ace-relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. I, however, disagree. If you take a look at the final four teams, they all have an elite closer.
The Cubs had Aroldis Chapman. The Indians have Cody Allen. The Dodgers had Kenley Jansen. The Blue Jays have Roberto Osuna. The four were a combined 151-for-169 in save opportunities during the regular season, and all sport an ERA below 2.75.
The obvious theme in all of these playoff teams is that to win, you must have a dominant closer. Someone you can count on to slam the door when the opposing crowd is going wild in a one-run game. The Orioles have that in Zach Britton, and I would not risk giving that up, no matter the quality of prospects that Britton would surely bring.
I propose an alternative trade. Brad Brach had the season of his life last year, pitching to an era of 2.04 with a WHIP of just 1.04. Both are career lows, and he has improved with each season. His trade value has never been higher, and teams like the Giants or the Houston Astros would give up considerable prospects for an arm of that caliber.
The other fact of the matter is that the Orioles’ bullpen is getting crowded. Britton has the closer role locked down, while Brach, Givens, and Darren O’Day could all conceivably be Buck’s set up man. With lefty specialists Donnie Hart and Brian Duensing looking ready to contribute as well, something out there has to give.
Therefore, Brach, not Britton, should be who the Orioles try to move. As a team, the Orioles have other set up men, but there is no one I, along with 99.99% of Orioles’ fans, trust more than Zach Britton. Elite closers simply cannot be replaced, and the Orioles would be foolish to try to replace theirs.