Despite having an incredible season and undoubtedly the best by any relief pitcher this season, the Baltimore Orioles won’t be extending Zach Britton any time soon. It just doesn’t make sense.
The 28-year old lefty made his second All-Star game in 2016, and is so far 44-from-44 in save opportunities, leading the majors. He has a 0.60 ERA through 60.1 innings of work, with a 0.845 WHIP, striking out 9.8 batters per nine innings. His SO/W ratio is down from before and so is his striking out rate, but Britton is doing everything else so well, there’s no real reason to complain about how he’s doing in different categories.
Britton makes $6.75 million this season, and being eligible for arbitration, that should rise to at least $12 million next season. However, the Orioles have him under control for two more seasons before he’s eligible for free agency, so getting into the negotiation process of extending him now seems a bit premature. Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are both hitting free agency this season, so the contract they receive will be the new standard for elite relievers. Britton is going to make good money next season either way, and so he can wait and see how those deals unfold, and put himself in a better position to negotiate.
Britton is currently throwing 96.3 mph fastballs, with an incredible 80.4% ground-ball ratio. Maybe the Orioles should be cost effective before he becomes too expensive? Usually Baltimore don’t hand out multi year deals to pitchers, but they did feel comfortable enough handing Darren O’Day four years during the offseason, and Britton doesn’t seem likely to be needing a Tommy John surgery if Bradley Woodrum is to be believed.
Britton has played his entire career (since 2011) for the Orioles, making the All-Star game in 2015 and 2016. Since becoming the team’s closer in 2014, he has a 1.42 ERA, a 0.914 WHIP and he strikes out 9.2 batters per nine innings.