Boston Red Sox trade rumors have swirled around Baltimore Orioles’ shortstop Manny Machado this week, as the Baltimore Sun reported on Tuesday, especially after the Red Sox arch-rival New York Yankees reportedly have shown strong interest in acquiring the free-agent-to-be for their stretch drive as they try to snatch the American League East top spot away from the Red Sox.
After Wednesday’s MLB slate, the Red Sox held on to a three-and-a-half game lead over the Yankees, per the MLB website, in what has become a two-team race in the AL East, with both teams apparently headed toward 100-win seasons, but with one destined to settle for one of two AL Wild Card slots. The third-place team in the division, the Tampa Bay Rays, sits 16 1/2 games out of first place, while the Yankees are currently occupying a Wild Card position with an eight-and-a-half game lead over the Oakland A’s.
But on Wednesday, new indications surfaced pointing to the possibility that Boston President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski’s seeming interest in the 25-year-old Machado was a feint, of sorts. In fact, Dombrowski, the rumors say, had his trade-deadline sights set on another Oriole who will become a free agent after the 2018 season — two-time All-Star left-handed reliever Zach Britton (pictured above).
“Told Red Sox checked in on Manny Machado but ‘nothing substantial’ at the moment. They continue to scout Zach Britton. Seems to be definite interest there,” wrote MASN TV reporter Roch Kubatko on his Twitter account late on Tuesday.
The 30-year-old Britton saved 47 games for Baltimore in 2016, striking out 74 in 67 innings, per Baseball Reference, in a year when he was perhaps baseball’s most dominant closer. But injuries took their toll in 2017 when Britton appeared in just 38 games after pitching in 133 over the previous two seasons.
But Britton is starting to bounce back in 2018, and after Wednesday is on a streak of five straight single-innings scoreless appearances, allowing just two hits and a walk while fanning four in that span, as the Baseball Reference database records.
WEEI Red Sox chief correspondent Rob Bradford confirmed that the team’s real interest was zero in on Britton, not Machado.
“The Red Sox aren’t going to be acquiring Machado,” Bradford wrote. “First of all, the Red Sox don’t really need him right now. (In case you missed it, they are now 35 games over.500.)… There is another player on that Orioles team, however, that Red Sox fans should absolutely be eyeing every time he pitches. Zach Britton is clearly on the Red Sox’ end-of-July short list.”
Britton would be slotted into the Red Sox bullpen likely in a seventh-inning or eighth-inning role, where he would compete for time on the mound with fireballers Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly. But Britton could also take some of the burden off of the Boston rationing relief duo. Kelly and Barnes have already thrown 39 and 39 2/3 innings respectively (per BR).
Britton may also be able to help regulate the innings thrown by closer Craig Mimbrel, who is in the midst of another banner year with 27 saves in the Red Sox first 93 games, and 54 strikouts in his 36 1/3 innings pitched. But on days when Kimbrel needs rest, Britton could step into the closer’s role, as the only other member of the Red Sox bullpen with significant experience saving games. Britton has tallied 137 saves since moving into the closer’s role for Baltimore in 2014.