The Cubs and Dodgers have both contacted the Orioles about reliever Zach Britton this winter, reports FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman monday evening. According to Heyman, a few other clubs have also checked in with Baltimore on Britton's availability, with the Orioles willing to "listen" to offers.
Britton has been a popular name on the trade block for a while now, but the Orioles' inability to execute a rebuild kept the lefty in Baltimore through the July 31 trade deadline this summer. It's not for a lack of effort; the Orioles reportedly agreed to deal Britton to Houston near the deadline, but the deal was ultimately nixed by Astros ownership.
Britton, 29, has established himself as one of the best relievers in baseball after a move to the bullpen in 2014. Despite struggling mightily as a starter in his first three seasons (4.77 ERA in 46 starts), Britton has dominated the late-innings with a 1.61 ERA in his last 246.1 innings in relief. The left-hander was even a candidate for both the AL MVP and Cy Young awards in 2016, going a perfect 47/47 in save opportunities with just four (FOUR!) earned runs allowed all season. 2017 was a bit tougher on the seven-year veteran due to shoulder and knee injuries, though few clubs are worried about his future health-wise.
The rumored interest from Chicago and Los Angeles provide little shock value, as both the Cubs and Dodgers were considered landing spots for Britton this summer. While Cubs reliever Justin Wilson—acquired from the Tigers for a prospect package including infielder Jeimer Candelario—still has one season of team control under his belt, he proved ineffective out of the bullpen down the stretch. An October bullpen meltdown in Chicago, paired with the possible departure of closer Wade Davis via free agency this winter, puts the Cubs in dire need of back-end relief help before 2018.
As for the Dodgers, deadline acquisition Tony Cingrani was incredibly productive in his short stint. Across 19.2 innings, Cingrani allowed just six earned runs (1.86 FIP) with a 13.0 K/9. With two years of arbitration still left on Cingrani's contract, He has likely earned himself a spot in Los Angeles' bullpen for the near future. But Cingrani, acquired from the Reds, was never seen as a huge splash. Adding a reliever of Britton's stature to pitch alongside the vaunted Kenley Jansen would make an already-dominant Dodgers team much scarier.