Cubs Still Searching For Back-End Bullpen Help

Orioles reliever Zach Britton remains on the Cubs' radar.

Bruce Levine
July 19, 2018 - 4:00 pm
Orioles reliever Zach Britton

Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- As trade rumors swirl with the non-waiver deadline awaiting July 31, the Cubs are at the forefront of teams in need of solidifying their pitching. 

Chicago's pitching has been solid all season with an ERA that's second-best in the National League, but the team has received no help from right-hander Yu Darvish or right-hander Tyler Chatwood, its two big offseason acquisitions. That has stressed a bullpen that's been really strong.

With the revelation that closer Brandon Morrow was placed on the 10-day disabled list with right biceps inflammation Thursday, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Cubs and Orioles become trade partners. Baltimore is shopping reliever Zach Britton.

"If you look at the numbers, our pitching is among the best," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We are always looking to make things stronger. That is what GMs do. We will see how the whole thing plays out. The bullpen is still very thick. It's not like there is a lack of confidence down there. But if I was running the team and you get in this position, you always try to make things a little better."

On MLB Network Radio on Thursday, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette confirmed that the organization is moving forward in establishing the market for Britton, who has a 3.68 ERA and has showcased some quality stuff in 15 appearances since returning from an Achilles injury. 

"We like Britton a lot," said an American League scout who has watched Britton in recent outings. "He is throwing at 95-96 again and more importantly has a good sink on his fastball. The Orioles may ask a lot for him, but they run the risk of the pitcher getting hurt again. I think he gets traded soon."

Britton is making $12 million this season, so he'll have a pro-rated amount of that left on his deal that figures to be around $4 million. He has a ton a high-leverage experience and was dominant in 2016, when he was 47-of-47 in save chances and had a 0.54 ERA. 

After trading Manny Machado to the Dodgers for five prospects, the Orioles seem to be in need of a shortstop. Baltimore does have interest in shorstop Addison Russell. If the Cubs were to consider parting with Russell, that would suggest an expanded deal that could include a starting pitching in the return for Chicago. Baltimore may be willing to part with 25-year-old right-hander Dylan Bundy, a source said. He's under team control through 2021.

The Theo Epstein-led Cubs aren't a standstill contender, so action is expected soon enough from the front office. They don't want such a toll on their bullpen, where Morrow has been terrific but gotten banged up. He's been on the DL eight times in his career, including twice in the past three weeks now.

"It had been bothering him a bit, but we thought it was manageable," Maddon said of Morrow's right biceps soreness. "Now it's not, so he has to take a little bit of a break. We don't anticipate him being gone a long time. We have to be prudent. We saw the other day his (miles per hour) was down. We felt it was the right time to back off."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.​​