Jeremy Guthrie has pitched the past five seasons for the lowly Baltimore Orioles, facing the tough lineups of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox several times per season, pitching in a good home run park for hitters and throwing in front of generally mediocre-to-poor defenses.
His reward for finally getting traded out of Baltimore ... Coors Field!
Some guys never catch a break.
With Guthrie facing free agency after the 2011 season, the Orioles traded the veteran right-hander to the Colorado Rockies for starter Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom. A quick look at the basic stats would suggest there isn't a lot of difference between Guthrie and Hammel:
Guthrie, 2007-2011: 2.6 BB/9, 5.5 SO/9, 1.2 HR/9, 1.27 WHIP
Hammel, 2009-2011: 2.7 BB/9, 6.3 SO/9, 1.0 HR/9, 1.40 WHIP
Despite the similar numbers, I like the deal from Colorado's perspective. Guthrie has performed in a tougher division, facing tougher lineups. He's pitched 200-plus innings each of the past three seasons while Hammel has averaged 175 in his three seasons as a starter, reaching the 170-180 range each year. Hammel has had to pitch in Coors Field and has compiled a better road ERA during his three years starting for the Rockies -- 4.30 versus 4.95. However, his strikeout rate took a big dip in 2011 from 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings to 5.0, so that's a red flag. I just don't see much upside for Hammel pitching in the AL East.
The Orioles do get two years of team control with Hammel plus a salary savings -- Guthrie signed for $8.2 million, while Hammel will make $4.75 million. Lindstrom still throws hard -- he averaged 96 mph on his fastball in 2011, although he still hasn't done much with that power heater. He did have his best season in 2011 despite a low K rate (6.0 K's per nine) because he threw more strikes. I don't see him as much more than a back-of-the-bullpen arm, but he'll likely serve in the late-innings mix with Jim Johnson and Kevin Gregg.
I do wonder whether the Orioles could have held Guthrie until the trade deadline and flipped him to a desperate contender for a couple of prospects. I would think a durable innings-eater like Guthrie would have been an attractive trade commodity.
Guthrie steps into the No. 2 spot in the Rockies' rotation behind Jhoulys Chacin. There is one cause for concern: Guthrie is an extreme fly-ball pitcher. Which means: (a) He can be prone to the home run (and this is Coors Field); (b) You need good outfield defense behind him.
The good news is Guthrie moves from a team that ranked last in the majors in outfield defense in 2011, according to Baseball Info Solutions' defensive runs saved (23 runs below average), to a team that ranked 12th (plus-18). However, the addition of Michael Cuddyer to the Colorado outfield is unlikely to improve that metric.
Guthrie should add stability to the Rockies' rotation. Now the club just needs to figure who the third, fourth and fifth starters are from a group including Juan Nicasio, Drew Pomeranz, Jorge De La Rosa (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery), Tyler Chatwood, Josh Outman, Guillermo Moscoso, Alex White and Jamie Moyer.