After a horrible half season with the Colorado Rockies, Jeremy Guthrie was traded to the Kansas City Royals for the equally-awful Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez only made three starts for the Rockies -- and you can guess how they went -- while Guthrie was one of the best pitchers in the American League in August and September. Now, Guthrie wants to get paid (italics necessary) for his efforts.
Who is he?
Guthrie is a 33 year old right-hander whose prime was spent pitching for some terrible Baltimore Orioles teams. From 2007 to 2011, he went 47-65 with a 4.12 ERA, logging at least 190 innings in all but one of those years. He isn't a stud by any means, but he was worth 4.3 bWAR in 2010 when he went 11-14 with a 3.83 ERA. He lost a league-leading 17 games in 2011, but this was largely due to playing for an awful team. The Orioles scored two runs or less in 11 of his 32 starts that season, and his ERA was only 4.33 -- not great, but not worthy of 17 losses either.
Why should we care?
Because his numbers outside of Coors Field are pretty awesome, considering what the Tigers need. Guthrie was 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA after being traded to the Royals -- and major props to Dayton Moore for pulling that deal off -- including two wins over the Tigers in which he allowed a combined three runs in 13 1/3 innings. Not only did his home run rate decrease from 2.1 per 9 innings with the Rockies to 0.9 per 9 innings with the Royals, but he also cut his walk rate from 3.1 per 9 innings with Colorado to 1.9 per 9 innings with Kansas City.
Guthrie's contract demands can easily be seen as a negative -- he doesn't deserve $11-12 million per season -- but I'm actually going to spin this a different way. For one, Scott Boras isn't his agent. Point: Guthrie. Second, those kinds of demands might scare away some of the smaller fish who were thinking about offering Guthrie a deal in lieu of a guy like Anibal Sanchez or Zack Greinke, pushing them towards players like Edwin Jackson, Francisco Liriano, or Carlos Villanueva. Finally, let's say that the Tigers overpay and give him a deal worth $10 million per year for 2-3 seasons. This provides more payroll flexibility than Sanchez's contract demands -- both in years and dollars -- allowing the Tigers to pay out all of the arbitration raises and contract extensions that we have discussed endlessly for the last two weeks. While re-signing Sanchez would be nice, bringing in Guthrie to be their fourth starter wouldn't be a bad fall-back option.
Why should we stay away?
Dude is homer prone like whoa. Even after ignoring the 15 (!) home runs that he allowed in nine (!!) starts at Coors Field, Guthrie still allowed 15 more home runs in his 22 starts outside the state of Colorado. This includes nine homers in his 14 starts with the Royals, which projects to 20-22 dingers over the course of a full season. And if he were to sit in that range in 2013, it would be the lowest total of any full season in his career. By comparison, Max Scherzer was the only Tigers pitcher to allow more than 20 long balls last season, and no Tigers pitcher has allowed more than 25 homers since Edwin Jackson gave up 27 in 2009.
There are also the aforementioned age and contract concerns, but we can say that about most (if not all) of the pitchers on the market right now.
Will he end up in Detroit?
Probably not. While I don't see Guthrie's contract demands as outrageous as others do, I think that the Tigers are going "Sanchez or bust" this offseason. There is nothing wrong with relying on Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly as your 4th and 5th starters heading into the season -- hey, it worked last year -- but I would like to see the Tigers go after a decent veteran like Guthrie if Sanchez signs elsewhere.