The Cleveland Indians’ bullpen is one of the team’s greatest strengths, and it could be getting stronger. Per team beat writer Paul Hoynes, Cleveland is “pushing hard” for Baltimore Orioles lefty closer Zach Britton.
Make no bones about it, baseball fans. If Zach Britton does indeed get traded to the Tribe, the Indians will officially be the team to beat in the American League.
Britton the Oriole
The 29-year-old Britton debuted with Baltimore in 2011 and spent the first three years of his career as a starter, pitching to a 4.77 ERA and 1.51 WHIP over 48 games, of which 46 were starts.
He finally came into his own in 2014, when he was moved to the bullpen and became a dominant closer. Britton posted 37 saves with a 1.65 ERA and sub-1 WHIP that year while also posting an eye-popping groundball rate of over 75%.
Britton also reached a new career high last year when he not only led the AL with 47 saves but also finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting after posting a magnificent 0.54 ERA on the season and an even better groundball rate of 80%.
His groundball rate is his biggest selling point, as he averaged a 78.1% rate from 2014-2016.
Given how Britton only has a small portion of his $11.4 million salary remaining due to him this year, not to mention the fact that he has a year of team control remaining, it's better for Baltimore to sell high on their closer and try to restock their minor league system with the return package.
Yes, there are concerns since he missed extended time this year with a forearm strain, but his groundball rate is still right where it should be and he would be a boon to any team looking to boost its bullpen, especially Cleveland.
Britton in Cleveland
Just what Britton's role in Cleveland would be is unclear, but he would automatically join a bullpen that carried the Indians to Game 7 to the World Series last year. Keep in mind that the Indians already have a strong closer in Cody Allen, who has 19 saves to go with a 2.74 ERA this year, not to mention long and lean lefty Andrew Miller and his 77 strikeouts in 53.1 innings.
Not surprisingly, Cleveland's bullpen ERA is the best in baseball with a mark of 2.78, so why acquire Britton at all?
The answer is simple: winning. The AL Central is getting more competitive now thanks to the Kansas City Royals' recent hot streak and Cleveland has a chip on its shoulder after losing the World Series last year. In adding Britton, be it as a closer or as another piece of the bridge to Allen, the team would immediately be the one to beat in the AL, not to mention one that could probably quell the hot bats of the Houston Astros.
It's all a question of if the Indians are willing to pay the price, which may just include No. 2 team prospect Triston McKenzie or even Aaron Civale, if not both or even more. Britton may be having an off 2017, but he still won't come cheap.
If the Indians management is serious about winning, they had better keep Baltimore GM Dan Duquette on the phone and strike a deal while the iron's hot.
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