Tuesday, February 7, 2012

O's ship Jeremy Guthrie to Rockies for two pitchers

When Dan Duquette, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations, traded Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, he accomplished two things: 1) he made a trade that wasn't absolutely necessary, possibly because it was the "best offer" on the table for Guthrie; and 2) he turned Guthrie, who turns 33 in April and is scheduled to become a free agent after this season, into two slightly younger pitchers who each have two years left of team control.

To clarify the salary info (courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts), Hammel will make $4.75 million this season and will have one final year of arbitration in 2013. Lindstrom will make $3.6 million this season and has a $4 million club option in 2013 with a $0.2 million buyout. But, as ESPN's Buster Olney pointed out yesterday, the trade wasn't really about money:
I sort of understand the deal from Duquette's perspective. In his first offseason with the O's, he's been concerned with quantity over quality when it comes to upgrading the team's pitching. Duquette hasn't made one major acquisition or signing, choosing instead to bring aboard guys like Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Dana Eveland. Hammel and Lindstrom should be helpful, but they're not likely to make the team much better than it would have been with Guthrie in the rotation.

It's also not Duquette's fault that Guthrie wasn't traded last season or before then, when his trade value was higher. Andy MacPhail had the opportunity to trade Guthrie a few times and chose to hold onto him instead. It was possible that Guthrie could have netted a couple prospects before the start of 2011 or at the trade deadline. But that didn't happen, and Guthrie remained with the Orioles.

If this truly was the best offer the O's received for Guthrie, they could have done worse. Hammel, who posted consecutive 3.9 WAR seasons in 2009 and 2010, has a chance to rebound on his subpar 2011 season when he struck out fewer batters, walked more batters, and posted a WAR of just 1. For comparison's sake, Guthrie never posted a WAR above 2.6. Pitching in the AL East will be a daunting task for Hammel and Lindstrom, but then again, pitching in Colorado is no walk in the park either. Lindstrom should also provide a decent late-game option out of the bullpen, which is always a bonus for a team that relies on Kevin Gregg to record outs.

It would have been ideal for the O's to acquire some youthful players with more upside, which is something Duquette hasn't done a whole lot of yet. The O's farm system needs all the help it can get. Duquette doesn't have the luxury of dealing with that many trade chips -- there isn't much to work with after Adam Jones or, gasp, Matt Wieters -- but if he's going to make other deals, he should be focused on any kind of high-ceiling prospect instead of an average-ish 29-year-old starter and an almost 32-year-old reliever. Maybe Duquette can trade Hammel or Lindstrom down the road if they perform better than expected, so a couple of prospects could be acquired then. But the O's aren't going to be good this season, whether this trade was completed or not. The goal is to be better a few years down the road, when Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy hopefully blossom into superstars.

For more on Hammel, Lindstrom, and the trade, check out posts at Baseball America, Camden Crazies, and FanGraphs.