Friday, December 16, 2011

Will Jeremy Guthrie Be Traded This Offseason?

This will hopefully be a new feature on Warehouse Worthy where loyal readers get an opportunity to guest post on the blog.  I have been on the west coast since last Sunday, and I appreciate a good friend Jonathan helping out by writing a great post about Jeremy Guthrie.  If you're interested in posting on the blog, send us an e-mail at       - Jeff

The Orioles have made no secret of their desire to stockpile starting pitchers.  Tsuyoshi Wada and Dana Eveland are both Orioles and Wie-Yin Chen could soon follow.  It’s not even New Years yet.  Add those names to a stable of possible starters that includes Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergeson, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Troy Patton, Jim Johnson, Alfredo Simon, and of course Jeremy Guthrie.  While, of course, some of these names will inevitably be destined for the bullpen, at this point there is potentially thirteen viable starting pitching candidates for five spots.  That number should continue to grow.

Some have wondered if these moves are a means to provide flexibility for the Orioles to trade their ace-by-default Jeremy Guthrie.  This is more than just conjecture.

Since being stolen from the impatient Cleveland Indians, Guthrie has been a symbol of consistency, starting 30 or more games every season and pitching over 200 innings the past three years.  He is in the last year of his contract and will be thirty-three years old when his contract expires.  It seems logical that Guthrie will be traded.

But not so fast.

The easy answer to why a trade will not happen is that last season the next closest thing to Guthrie’s 208 innings pitched was Britton’s 154 and it keeps dropping from there.  There is simply no one to replace him in terms of innings and production.  It is hard to imagine Buck Showalter would allow the Orioles to go into next season with one starter who eclipsed 150 innings and four other starters who were not even close to that number.  Furthermore, Dan Duquette has been quoted as saying that he wants the team to be over .500 next year.

There is another, more complicated, reason to why he will not be traded. The market indicates that the Orioles will simply never get what they want for him.  Although pitching is always a premium that does not absolutely mean a valuable return.

Let’s look at the Shaun Marcum trade as a comparison.   Before the 2011 MLB season, the Jays were able to nab top prospect Brett Lawrie, a guy who was ranked anywhere from 40-54 on top prospect lists in 2011 (and played pretty well in limited time with the Jays).  It seemed like a fair trade for Marcum who was only 28 year old at the time of the trade with a full two years left on his contract.  On closer examination, Marcum’s stats are not too far off from Jeremy Guthrie’s 2010 season (give Marcum 40 more strikeouts and Guthrie a few more innings).  At that time Jeremy Guthrie also had two years left on his contract.  See where I am going with this?

If the Orioles wanted to trade Guthrie, he should have been traded prior to the 2011 season.  Milwaukee was in a frenzy for starting pitching and like every offseason, so was everyone else.  The free agent pitching market looked something like Cliff Lee and then . . . Freddy Garcia?  Guthrie’s value was high and so was his tradability.  He had lowered his WHIP to a career low 1.16 the season before and had pitched almost 210 innings of sub-4.00 ERA baseball.   Now I am not insinuating that trading Guthrie would have absolutely netted a player of Lawrie’s caliber.  Marcum was younger and flashier at the time of trade.  What I am indicating is that by waiting Guthrie’s value has been sapped.  He has one year left on his contract, will be 33 years old during the season, is coming off of an average year (although good by Orioles rotation standards), and is lost in an offseason that, if nothing else, is deeper in free agent pitching than last season (especially if you include international talent).

Will Guthrie be traded?  It seriously could happen, pitching is always a premium and teams will always pay for pitching, especially a pitcher with Guthrie’s durability.  If a team is willing to trade a high upside, near ready prospect for a guy with one year left on his contract, then the trade is likely.  I just doubt it.

- Jonathan

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