BALTIMORE -- The Orioles face an interesting dilemma with closer Zach Britton this offseason. In 2017, the 29-year-old left-hander made $11.4 million. In his final year of club control, Britton could command a salary of $14 million-$15 million, and that may be too rich for the Orioles.
The team listened to offers for Britton ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and as a highly marketable piece, it may listen again.
The Orioles need to bolster their starting pitching, and Britton could potentially bring them starters -- assuming his market value is high.
While they may not want to pay a reliever, no matter how good he is, $14 million-$15 million, the idea of non-tendering Britton is unfathomable, and if they don't get the return they're looking for in the trade market in November or December, the Orioles may have to hold on to him.
If Britton shows in spring training that he's healthy, his value could rise. He's eligible for free agency after next season, and it seems unlikely the Orioles and Britton will agree on a contract extension.
Britton pitched exceptionally, and, for the most part, injury-free, from 2014-2016, his first three years as a closer.
But would potential trade partners be wary of Britton's 2017? He was out for most of the first half of this season with a strained left forearm. In 38 games, Britton has a 2-1 record with 2.89 ERA and 15 saves in 17 chances.
"He pitched through a lot of stuff," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Zach's had a pretty good year this year in 38 games. A lot of people would trade places with him. At that level that he has been pitching at as far as longevity and success, it's extremely rare. [In 2016] he had the best year of any relief pitcher in the history of baseball in my mind."
Britton went 47-for-47 in save opportunities last year.
"You're not going to see that again," Showalter said. "I knew that when I was watching it."
Britton was supposed to receive a stem cell injection in his left knee Sept. 21, but it was put off a day because the medicine was unavailable. Britton is now scheduled to receive the injection Sept. 22.
"We know it doesn't hurt. In a lot of cases it's helped," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said about the treatment. "But there's not enough information, research on it to know exactly what the return is."
Showalter said the injection was "something we were going to do anyway as the season ended to get that going because it's something that's going to heal."
Assuming Britton won't pitch in the final eight games of the season, Brad Brach and perhaps sidearmer Darren O'Day will close. Right-hander Mychal Givens, who has yet to close, might also get an opportunity.
Brach, who made $3.05 million this year, will be a free agent after next year, too. Brach, who blew six saves in 23 chances this season, recorded his 18th save Sept. 21 with a scoreless ninth against the Tampa Bay Rays.
O'Day has two years remaining on a four-year, $31 million contract. He converted two of four save opportunities this season. Givens won't be eligible for arbitration for another year.
The Orioles also have left-hander Richard Bleier, who's been effective, and another left-hander, Donnie Hart, who hasn't been as effective as he was in 2016. Right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis has shown some promise. Another right-hander who has pitched well out of the bullpen, Miguel Castro, will likely be tried as a starter.
Showalter said he isn't worried about Britton's future.
"I think he's going to be a good, quality pitcher for us next year," he said.