Orioles Trade Jeremy Guthrie For…Huh?

This is a trade that just doesn’t make sense to me:

The Rockies and Orioles are nearing an agreement that would send starter Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado, most likely for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. (MLB Trade Rumors)

Let me preface this by saying that I like Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Hammel more than most people probably do. After watching Guthrie pitch in the AL East for the past five seasons, I’ll be glad to see him go. Despite his underwhelming strikeout numbers and flyball tendencies, there are some nights where he pumps his fastball up around 95 MPH (with good movement) and can shred through opposing lineups. My eyes are overly optimistic on Guthrie, though, as the reality is that he’s a 32-year-old starter that doesn’t generate many whiffs and is only around a +2 win pitcher. He’s no ace, but he’s still a valuable pitcher to have.

The same can be said about Jason Hammel. Since being traded to the Rockies prior to the ’09 season, he has racked up +9 wins over three seasons. He comes with his share of question marks — his strikeout rate plummeted in 2011, and his ERA has always outpaced his peripherals due to a high BABIP — but considering he will be 29 years old this season, he has the potential to be better than Guthrie. His 4.37 career SIERA is better than anything Guthrie has posted over the past five years, so you can argue that the Orioles are getting an excellent buy-low starter in this deal. Whether Hammel lives up to that potential…well, we’ll see.

But here’s what I don’t understand: what do the Orioles and Rockies get out of this trade?

Yes, the Orioles have a weak starting rotation, but considering their place on the win curve, shouldn’t they be stocking up on prospects instead of acquiring a $5 million starter with only two seasons of team control left? My only thought is they are high on Hammel and believe he can rebound (despite making the transition to the AL East), and plan to extend him or flip him for even more than they could have received for Guthrie. You don’t find +4 win pitchers every day, so if Hammel can perform at that level and the Orioles lock him up for cheap…okay, I can get behind that.

The problem is that the Rockies obviously don’t believe in Hammel. They are trading him away for an aging fly ball pitcher with middling strikeout numbers — in other words, not the sort of pitcher you’d expect to succeed in Coors Field. Guthrie is due somewhere around $7.25-$10.25 million in arbitration this season, and he’ll be a free agent afterwards. Despite these facts, the Rockies are sending two players* to the Orioles in return for one year of Guthrie. The only way this deal makes sense for them if they don’t believe Hammel will ever become more than a fourth or fifth starter.

*Matt Lindstrom is more than just a throw-in piece; he was worth nearly +1 win in relief last season and has an affordable team option for 2013. He may be a bit old and poor trackrecord, but he’s a fine player to acquire if you’re a team looking to solidify your bullpen. But again, I’m not sure what sort of long-term value he holds for the Orioles.

The Orioles are betting on a long shot, while the Rockies are taking on a starter that will potentially offer a small upgrade to their rotation (while bringing along his share of question marks). Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get it.




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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.


44 Responses to “Orioles Trade Jeremy Guthrie For…Huh?”

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  1. Greg says:

    You are wrong about what Guthrie was due to make in arbitration. The O’s submitted $7.25M and Guthrie submitted $10.25M.

    He was not due to make between 5 and 6.5 million.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Guthrie settled for $8.2M. And Hammel+Lindstrom cost $8.35M.

      The real difference is the fact that Guthrie is a free agent at the end of the year, while Hammel and Lindstrom are under control for another season. And as Slowinski pointed out, Hammel has a bit more upside.

      Sure, in context, this doesn’t make sense for the Orioles because they need to completely rebuild. But Hammel+Lindstrom > Guthrie. So I don’t understand why they’re getting trashed for this deal. They’re no worse off (in terms of talent or finances) than they were yesterday.

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      • AK says:

        They’re worse off if you factor in opportunity cost, which you absolutely should do if you’re talking about a last-place team with one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        AK, I get that. They can no longer trade Guthrie. But there’s theoretically nothing preventing the Orioles from turning around and flipping Hammel+Lindstrom for an equal prospect haul.

        The move is puzzling because its a lateral move for a rebuilding team, and they’re not actually planning on flipping Hammel+Lindstrom. But if, at this moment, the Orioles front office were to suddenly become competent, I think they’d be just as well off as they were yesterday.

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      • Kurt says:

        The Orioles have been losing for 13 years. It’s Duquette’s intention to build a team that can post a winning season, because it’s going to take a while to turn around the system. That’s all the fans want–someone who is serious about winning games, so they have something to watch while waiting for a farm system turn around.

        I don’t think these two things are mutually exclusive. I don’t believe in losing games to “rebuild.”

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  2. Dave says:

    Guthrie’s arbitration figures are actually higher than that – $7.25 from the team vs. $10.25 from the player. Either way, he was going to make a lot of money.

    This doesn’t look like a great return on the surface for the Orioles, but maybe they actually did get the better end of this deal, especially with the cost savings. Would like to see Hammel get his K rate back up around 6 or 7; then I’ll feel better about this from the O’s perspective.

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    • Yup, thanks guys…I fixed it. I accidentally took the numbers filed for last year’s arb hearing and not this year. Sorry…

      In the end, it looks like the deal is money-neutral…Hammel and Lindstrom will make about as much as Guthrie. I think the Orioles are getting back a better potential value for that money, but I’m still not sure I see the long-term value.

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      • JamesDaBear says:

        I also don’t see the value for the Rockies in giving up Lindstrom. That should be a piece a potential contender holds on to. They must have needed to shed salary for Guthrie… only way it makes even a little sense.

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  3. j6takish says:

    I feel like Guthrie should have been moved at the deadline last year….or the year before…or the year before that. He is the type of pitcher teams will overpay for to upgrade a weak 4/5 starter for the stretch run, trading him before the season seems like selling low…..if it’s even possible to sell low on a guy like Guthrie

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  4. Louis says:

    Orioles. :-(

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  5. Joel says:

    I has a sad…
    Sorry the team sold you out like this Guts. You’re probably the nicest, classiest player in baseball and you will be missed.

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    • Dingbat Charlie says:

      I’m happy for him, he deserves a better situation.

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    • shibboleth says:

      I echo this sentiment. Seems like the O’s came out on top – slightly – but I will miss Guthrie. He went 200 innings these past three seasons, and was nothing less than the workhorse of a team that never cracked .500. Maybe the O’s will be able to do better by Hammel, but it’s a shame they made him carry that rotation for almost 5 years

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      • wat says:

        What do you mean carry the rotation? They knew they were going nowhere so it wasn’t like they were asking him to win all of his starts or anything.

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  6. kylegocougs says:

    Hammel is garbage. His 3.9 WAR in 2010 seems like a miscalculation

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    • guesswork says:

      What about his 3.9 WAR in 2009?

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      • Also Garbage says:

        Look at his ERA derp and derp me if you derp his derp.

        Only think I have to say about Hammel is his testicles are made of solid granite.

        http://espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=280910102

        If you saw him make this save in this game, you would know exactly what I mean.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        pfft, no such thing as make up or emotions playing a role. A closer is simply a mediocre starting pitcher. This isn’t impressive from a mental toughness aspect because that doesn’t come into play. “make up” is just something useless scouts came up with to justify their existence. BTW I’m being sarcastic, I’m pretty sure my last sentence was actually written somewhere on here.

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  7. Ryan says:

    Yikes, as a Rockies fan, I don’t know what just happened here. Hammel for Guthrie, straight-up, makes sense to me, but Lindstrom is a solid late-inning reliever that tips this trade toward the Orioles, in my opinion.

    The Rockies needed a consistent 200+ inning guy, and they got one. I’m not as concerned about HR/9 numbers as others are. Yeah, he will play home games at Coors Field (overrated as a HR park), but he plays the bulk of his road games in SD, LA, and SF. He’ll benefit getting away from Fenway and Yankee Stadium, and their respective lineups.

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  8. attgig says:

    I think the O’s came up on top in this deal. and while I agree they should be getting more prospects, I don’t think they would get much of a prospect for Guthrie. They got younger with a pitcher who has promise, and some help for their pretty sad bullpen. I agree with the move they made.

    Colorado on the other hand… no clue what they were thinking.

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    • guesswork says:

      That’s what I was thinking. Guthrie wasn’t going to bring in any prospects. At best, the Orioles could have covered a large chunk of Guthrie’s salary and brought in one or two C prospects that would likely be of no real value to their future. Plus Hammel+Lindstrom will probably provide more quality innings (on average) than Guthrie for a team that had horrible pitching last year.

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  9. st says:

    if lindstrom has a decent few months, i bet they trade him at the deadline

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  10. Greg says:

    Guthrie agreed to $8.2M with Colorado.

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  11. guesswork says:

    It might be worth noting that free agent compensation rules are changing next year. No way does any team offer Guthrie the qualifying contract next off season, so he is not worth any draft picks. Minus the draft picks, Guthrie is a 1 year, $8M pitcher with almost no probability of out performing his contract. While Guthrie certainly has some value, I have a hard time believing any team would give up anything remotely resembling a prospect for that.

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  12. Mr Punch says:

    This deal might make sense from the Rockies’ point of view if they were going to move Guthrie on to the Red Sox, who could surely use him. This is assuming (a) the Orioles wouldn’t trade within the division; (b) the Red Sox would be willing to pay Guthrie $8.2 m.; and (c) the Red Sox have any interest in acquiring a starter who isn’t already injured and might actually eat up some innings. Some of these assumptions are pretty dubious.

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  13. Greg says:

    Does Fan Graphs ever get any of the Rockies trades?

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  14. TheGrandslamwich says:

    The real question is: what does this do for Moyer’s odds of seeing the show this year?

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  15. Steve says:

    If you look at Duquette’s moves in a vacuum this year, it’s clear he believes that young prospect returns are overvalued, average-to-slightly-above-average MLB level players are undervalued, and that the league’s opinion of Asian talent is undervalued. He’s definitely “ying-ing” against the prevailing wisdom (including FG) “yang”. A lot of things have been said about Duquette, but nobody argues that the guy is dumb, and his track record is pretty remarkable. I’m interested to see if he’s uncovered something here or if he’s just grasping at straws.

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    • guesswork says:

      Most of Duquette’s deals have been to acquire role players with some upside. I’m not sure how you conclude he believes young prospect returns are overvalued, as the Guthrie trade has been the only trade that could possibly have brought in prospects, and Duquette has said no one was offering prospects (unsurprisingly). His other trades brought in role players for nothing (Miller, Teagarden, Eveland).

      For a team that has no chance of competing, why not bring in Asian players and seeing if they can perform well in the majors? It’s not like Chen or Wada are big commitments. I don’t think Duquette thinks he has anything other than some guys who will hopefully be decent 3/4 guys for a few years.

      The rest of the major league roster transactions (Antonelli, Betemit, Chavez, O’Day, Flaherty) make up a who’s who of fangraphs-approved role players.

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  16. jim says:

    “Yes, the Orioles have a weak starting rotation, but considering their place on the win curve, shouldn’t they be stocking up on prospects instead of acquiring a $5 million starter with only two seasons of team control left?”

    duquette has said that no team was willing to deal prospects for guthrie

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    • Stringer Bell says:

      I sincerely doubt this. I don’t see how getting an average at best 29 year old starter that isn’t much of an innings eater and a mediocre 32 year old reliever is really adequate for a fan favorite/consistent 200 innings guy. I’m usually not one to defend the “never trade a fan favorite” argument, but in this case when they are getting this godawful return, they should have just kept him. They’ll probably nontender both of these two after the year anyway when they bomb in the East, so it’ll be a worthless deal.

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      • Chris in Hawaii says:

        Stringer Bell was better with the numbers than you’re showing.

        You may want to change your name to Wee Bay.

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      • Stringer Bell says:

        I meant I’m doubting what DD is saying, not that he didn’t say it. Hammel underperforms his FIP each year for a reason, and people are overlooking that in proclaiming he was a 3.9 WAR pitcher in 2009 and 2010 (he wasn’t). His line drive percentage is consistently high, which isn’t okay for a guy who doesn’t strike out that many. He already got his ass kicked in the AL East on the first go-round, and again, he has never proven he’s good one time. He’s like a homeless man’s version of Javier Vazquez in terms of matching his peripherals.

        A C+ prospect is a better return than these two.

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      • Preston says:

        Going from Coors to anywhere else will probably help you perform closer to your FIP. If this is really all they could get for Guthrie there’s no reason not to. Guthrie’s a nice back end starter. Hammel might be a nice back end starter or even a little more than that. Plus Lindstrom will probably pitch the 8th or 9th inning for them. Sure the trade could go bad. They might one season of two bad players and then DFA them both. Or they might get two good seasons of two solid contributors in exchange for one season of one solid contributor. What exactly do the Orioles have to lose in this situation?

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      • Stringer Bell says:

        Camden is a hitters park as well, plus when you factor in facing Boston/Tampa/New York/Toronto instead of LA/San Francisco/San Diego/Arizona consistently, it’s pretty much negated. And they’re not really losing all that much but they’re not gaining anything for the future either, which is what they desperately need if they want to get out of the basement in the AL East in the next decade. This trade sucks because it does not do anything for them this year, and it won’t for the future. It’s just DD making a trade to make a trade, instead of holding on to Guthrie until a team was willing to give them an actual prospect of importance.

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  17. ben says:

    The Orioles lost value, and did not get like value in return. They have guys who can nearly replicate Hammel, and Lindstrom, or are at least younger, and as interesting. They do not have another Guthrie. Hammel is leaving Coors field, but pitching in Baltimore, Boston, and New York (and neutralish Toronto and difficult Tampa Bay), to four good lineups, instead of 2 hitters’ parks (Colorado and Arizona) and two of the most difficult places to hit in baseball, and a difficult one (San Diego, San Fran, and Los Angeles). Anyone who thinks that Jason Hammel is going to be nearly as valuable to his team as Jeremy Guthrie next year, by any measure, is wrong. The Orioles are also already stuffed with players younger than the two new guys, who are out-of-options, which is going to needlessly create difficult decisions this spring when it comes to having extra players swallowed off of their 40-man. Similar to the Luke Scott release–who signed with Tampa for an amount that would have been similar to his arbitration award, and could have traded him for a low-level prospect. And if Guthrie couldn’t bring in a prospect now, then he probably would have at the deadline. A team with as few resources as the Orioles needs to maximize them. These guys just don’t help as much, in the present or in the future.

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  18. ben says:

    I’m with Stringer.

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  19. chuckb says:

    What I can’t figure out is why the Rockies continue to sign/trade for fly ball pitchers for Coors Field. It’s not as if their fly ball defense is tremendous; they’re going to have Michael Cuddyer in one OF corner. Gonzalez is a decent, if unspectacular, corner OF but Fowler’s never shown himself to be even decent in CF. Even so, if the ball’s flying over the wall, the best outfielders in the game won’t catch them.

    Have the Rockies hypothesized that fly ball pitchers are an undervalued commodity? Are they guessing that there’s a limit to the # of fly balls that can leave the park so they’ll get extra outs b/c of the size of their OF (assuming their OF can cover all that ground)? Seriously. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

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    • jim says:

      “Gonzalez is a decent, if unspectacular, corner OF but Fowler’s never shown himself to be even decent in CF”

      you obviously have never watched either of those players

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  20. 7sky says:

    If one delves into what the Rockies and DOD have done this off season, the deal makes a lot of sense. They’ve basically loaded up on #4 and 5 pitchers, some, like Moscoso and Outman, who seem a bad fit for Colorado. This surplus of ‘bad’ starters has allowed the Rockies to have some leverage in trades. In the Scutaro trade, they give up Mortensen. In the Fausto namegate, they trade Kevin Slowey for Putnam, who could be a mid inning relief guy, along with Chad Bettis, to replace Lindstrom. Guthrie may or may not be better than Hammel, but he is a pitcher who is more mentally consistent than Hammel, who invariably will drive the hometown fan nuts with 4 great innings and then a 5th, where he cannot get anyone out. It happens far too often, and if he is your no. 5 starter, he’s good, but if anyone expects him to be a no. 3 or so, fugedaboudid. The Rockies’ trades never seem to cause any great cheers, but they’ve slightly improved the club with each trade, and there is now starting depth, where it seems likely they will flip a starter like Moscoso or maybe even Guthrie, if the young arms like Pomeranz, White and Nicasio prove to be reliable. The overall picture of the Rockies financial and team situation should be looked at less for each deal and more at the big picture. When you have a surplus of starters, teams will come looking, and the Rockies should have 2 starters that could be up for trades, and possibly getting good value from teams desperate for pitching, during the season. The lineup is Fowler, Scutaro, Cargo, Tulo, Cuddyer, Helton, Hernandez and Blake. It’s a strong lineup. The final two guys are holding places for prospects Wilin Rosario and Nolan Arenado. A deal like the Guthrie one makes some wonder why, but I can definitely see why the Rockies wanted to try and make even an incremental gain by trading for him. The projected starters are Chacin, Guthrie, DeLaRosa(june comeback), Nicasio and Pomeranz. Until DLR comes back, the starter will be chosen from White, Moscoso, Outman, and Jamie Moyer. Christian Friedrich and Chad Bettis are possibilities to come up during the year, and if two of the young pitchers prove to be reliable, then there will likely be trades. If not, I think the depth will help the Rockies, if not be the desired plan. But, with all the questions surrounding the starting pitching, Guthrie is more reliable than Hammel, and the trade makes sense.

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  21. Randy says:

    Are there any implications for the Rockies regarding their 40 man roster? Maybe there is someone they need to/want to add to the 40 man roster? They seem to think they have a shot at the playoffs so they thought acquiring Guthrie was at least a marginal upgrade in the rotation, Lidstrom was replaceable, and they are not on the hook for salary beyond 2012. I can see that making sense for them. The O’s, on the other hand, trade good relievers like Uehera last year, and then try to replace him by acquiring Lidstrom this year? If the rumors are true that they could have had Eric Young Jr., then they should have done it.

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  22. Ryan says:

    In terms of prospects, the Orioles aren’t getting anything for Hammel unless he really catches fire. Guys like John Lannan will be available on the cheap and there’s a lot of Freddy Garcia/Sergio Mitres out there these days. Duquette did this purely to fortify their rotation. The need innings guys with a little upside, and Hammel can do that more cheaply than Guthrie.

    The Orioles don’t fully believe they’re in a rebuilding mode. Showalter wants to win, and their farm system has enough talent in the Bundy’s, Bridwell, Schoop and Machado plus some role players to not really need a prospect boost. If Matusz and Britton get right, Arrieta and Tillman find themselves– possibly in the ‘pen– their club looks pretty solid. Chen might be decent, and their offense has some top-shelf players at premium positions in JJ Hardy, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones. Markakis is still talented and both Reimold and Davis have the skills to be 2-3 WAR guys.

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