Orioles closer Zach Britton will miss at least 4-6 months after rupturing his Achilles tendon while working out in California on Tuesday, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported on Wednesday morning.
Britton, who turns 30 on Friday, is widely considered to be one of the league’s best closers, and he had one of the best seasons by a reliever in recent memory in 2016, posting a 0.54 ERA and 0.84 WHIP with 74 strikeouts and 18 walks in 67 innings. He had 47 saves in 47 opportunities and finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting.
Britton struggled a bit in 2017, spending two stints on the disabled list due to a left forearm strain while also dealing with knee soreness. He had a solid 2.89 ERA, but his strikeout rate went down with his walk rate going up as he collected 29 strikeouts and 18 walks in 37.1 innings.
Britton is scheduled to hit free agency next offseason and was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $12.2 million through arbitration this winter. There was at least a decent possibility of him being traded to a more viable contender before the start of the season. If the Orioles still have any interest in dealing him now, though, they’ll just have to hope that he returns ahead of schedule and can recoup his trade value before the deadline.
With Britton out, the Orioles are likely to turn to right-hander Brad Brach as their closer, though his injury certainly reduces Baltimore’s chances of competing in 2018 and could enable them to deal Brach, who’s also a free agent next offseason, before the season begins.