While the Dodgers have been extremely quiet so far during the weeks leading up to the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline, the silence doesn’t necessarily mean the front office isn’t working hard to negotiate a trade or two in order to upgrade an already stacked 25-man roster. If there is one departmental weakness on the club, it could be the vulnerability of the bullpen, despite the NL-leading 2.90 ERA. Furthermore, it’s apparent that the team could benefit from the acquisition of an elite lefty specialist, and nobody fits the bill better than Zach Britton of the Orioles. And we’re here to tell you five reasons why.
Because he’s elite — Since being converted to a full-time reliever in 2014, Britton’s numbers are as good as any of the premiere firemen in baseball. Exclusively as a relief pitcher, he’s thrown 224 innings over 218 appearances in four seasons, and has posted a 1.41 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, and a 2.43 FIP, along with 125 saves and 226 strikeouts. Last season, the southpaw logged 67 frames in 69 games, registering an insane 0.54 ERA and a 0.94 FIP with 47 saves and 74 punchouts. Without a doubt, the numbers speak volumes.
He can fill a number of different roles — Skipper Dave Roberts thrives on systematically piecing together his relief crew to form a bridge to All-World closer Kenley Jansen, and there’s no question that Britton could play several different parts for the Los Angeles relief crew. Should Jansen be unavailable, Britton could close. Should the Dodgers need a LOOGY, Britton could hold his own, made evident by his .185 BAA and a .241 SLGA versus lefty hitters over the entirety of 2016. And, he would also project as an outstanding setup man, the role in which the Dodgers would most likely utilize the Texas native.
He has a team-friendly contract — Britton will earn $11.4 million in 2017, a price tag that some say is a bit expensive for many a team’s budget, but the lefty’s skills are certainly commensurate with his salary. He’s still on the south side of 30 years of age, and although he’s arbitration eligible over the coming winter, the earliest he can become a free agent is in 2019. If the management team of the Dodgers are indeed able to orchestrate some type of deal, Britton would play into the future of the club, and would not be for a mere rental.
The Dodgers have the resources — Already ranked among the choice minor league systems in the entire game, the Los Angeles farm seemingly continues to grow and improve with each passing season. The Dodgers featured four players on Baseball America’s midseason Top 100 Prospects list, and appear to be plentifully stocked at almost every position on the diamond. Undeniably, Baltimore’s asking price would conceivably be incredibly high; however, if the front office crew elects to pull the trigger and go for broke this season, a big hit in a prospective deal would superficially put a small dent in the farm system.
The final piece of the puzzle — Advanced scouts of opposing squads are well-aware that there are very few weaknesses on this 2017 version of the Dodgers, yet the addition of a quality left-handed reliever may be the final component to a formula that sees the team advancing deeply into the postseason. We’ve already discussed that all three of Luis Avilan, Grant Dayton and Adam Liberatore are running out of time to emerge as the club’s go-to lefty specialist, and Britton would solve that problem in exponential fashion. Theoretically, on paper, there’s not much else the Dodgers need to be a complete team.
Of course, many obstacles stand in the way of both sides completing a trade, besides the fact that sometimes no matter how hard either clubs try, an impasse is often reached for any number of reasons. To start, a few of the latest whispers have the Orioles asking about Walker Buehler, Yadier Alvarez and Alex Verdugo, three players who the Dodgers would have a hard time sending away in any deal. Another factor is Britton’s health — returning from the DL on July 5 from a forearm strain, Britton missed more than two months, and has yet to prove that he’s able to pitch on consecutive days without rest.
In the end, the question of the day is whether or not a bullpen upgrade would provide a boost to the Dodgers in their quest for a World Championship for 2017. Looking at how far a underrated Indians team advanced last year with the addition of Andrew Miller, and seeing what the Royals accomplished in 2015 with the trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland may provide the answer.
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