Cubs Have Reportedly Spoken with Orioles About Britton Again

As relievers continue to fly off the shelves like this year’s hottest toy, the Cubs have been content to avoid the retail crush while browsing the selection on Amazon. They may also be waiting out the market on Wade Davis in the hopes that their former closer’s asking price comes down.

And then there’s another rumor that just won’t die. The Cubs had been in trade-deadline talks with the Orioles about Zach Britton, then had re-engaged Baltimore earlier this offseason. It seemed like we’d heard the end of those reports, but TBLDaily.com’s Dan Clark tweeted Thursday morning that the two sides have gotten together again.

What’s notable here is that Clark says the return would be “top prospects,” which is really interesting because, well, the Cubs don’t really have any. As unfair as that is to some of the young men matriculating through the system, it’s a fact that the Cubs’ farm simply isn’t as highly rated as it was before promotions and other trades gutted the top ranks.

Then again,¬†Aramis Ademan could be an attractive option in such a deal when we consider the makeup of both teams involved here. Ademan is a shortstop and the Cubs are pretty well set at the middle infield positions for the foreseeable future. The O’s, on the other hand, are expected to trade Manny Machado and could have use for high-ceiling infielders (yes, I know Machado is playing third and they traded for Tim Beckham at SS).

Then there’s Victor Caratini, who could be seen as an upgrade over the 31-year-old Caleb Joseph. The switch-hitting Caratini has long been viewed as a trade chip because he’s got the potential to play on an everyday basis, but can’t with Willson Contreras ahead of him. The Cubs also have a wave of young pitchers coming up; while they might not be big-league-ready in the next year or two, they could be valuable to a team looking to rebuild.

I have no explicit reason to doubt the veracity of Clark’s report, but there are still a number of variables and hypotheticals to consider. Are the talks in earnest or is this a way so somehow try to gain leverage in other areas? Davis’s market seems to be shrinking with the Nationals signing Brandon Kintzler and the Rockies apparently close on Greg Holland, so maybe this hastens his desire to sign.

Or perhaps the Cubs are moving in several different directions simultaneously, pursuing both free agents and trade options to see which works out with the best total cost. I’ve heard some further rumblings about the Alex Colom√© rumors, but those should also be taken with a big grain of salt.

It’s unlikely we see anything get done on any of these fronts by the end of the Winter Meetings, but the overall closer situation is certainly something to monitor.

***Update***

The Cubs have agreed with former Marlins and Mariners closer Steve Cishek on a two-year deal.

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