The Royals traded Jonathan Sanchez last week, for another baseball player. I know, I still can't believe it either. That move alone has earned Dayton Moore at least a short reprieve. In return for one of the most astonishingly bad pitchers in baseball, the Royals received Jeremy Guthrie. A guy who comes to the Royals sporting a 6.35 ERA, a birthday in the 1970's and due more money than Sanchez. My conclusion: time to sign him to a contract.
Like Sanchez, Guthrie is a free agent at the end of the season, also he's a starting pitcher. The Royals have bought themselves an exclusive negotiating window which expires at the end of this season. They can talk openly with Guthrie's agent and attempt to work out some semblance of a deal which can put Guthrie in a Royals uniform for one or two more seasons.
Reader: "But, but, WHY?"
Me: "Let's take a walk and work this out shall we?"
Let's get the obvious on the table right now. Jeremy Guthrie has been pretty bad as a starting pitcher this year. It seems a little bit crazy to consider signing him to a contract extension. This entire discussion is predicated on the fact that the Royals can sign Guthrie for a reasonable contract.* A contract which gets more reasonable as he continues his struggles this season. But let's dive into those struggles first.
*What is reasonable? I'm not sure exactly. I kind of think a 2-year $10m deal to be about right.
Jeremy Guthrie came from the Colorado Rockies where he is mandated to pitch at the home launching pad on a regular basis. Often, pitchers have severely inflated home run and ERA totals pitching in the park. Was that true for Guthrie? Here are some selected numbers as a Rockie:
At home: 9.50 ERA || 3.02 HR/9
Away: 3.73 ERA || 1.30 HR/9
Pretty stark differences. Even if you adjust for the National League being considerably easier to pitch in, his away numbers are very good. The interesting thing is that his away numbers are in line with his career numbers where he has a 1.3 HR/9 and 4.39 ERA. Take the guy out of Coors field and he just might be a solid candidate for the rotation.
I'm sure this elementary analysis isn't lost on any front-office in baseball. However as alluded to earlier the Royals have an opportunity for exclusive negotiation and can still point to an inflated ERA to help drive the price down. Sure Guthrie is a little long in the tooth, but he is a pitcher and looking for a contract. Which actually brings up the second point.
Who else is out there. Nobody will argue that the Royals need starting pitching and they probably need to hit the free agent market to get it. So, if they don't chase Guthrie this off-season, what other choices do they have?
According to Cot's Contracts this is the list of Free Agent pitchers who don't have an option of some kind for 2013:
Matt Cain - Extended
It's actually a pretty decent list. But general managers will be chasing these guys like they're the last human woman on the Planet of the Apes. Could they break the bank and pull in one of the better names on the list? Maybe. Will the player be willing to play for the losingest franchise in professional sports? Maybe.
Regardless, they'll have to wait until the end of the season to start finding out. In the meantime they could put one of the pieces in place by signing Jeremy Guthrie. Giving him an offer when he's down on his luck, after making an effort to acquire him during the season.
It's a big risk for a 33 year old pitcher, but the Royals need to take risks and they're due for some risks to actually work out. I imagine the Royals acquired him for just the purpose of trying to hammer out a deal. I kind of hope I'm right.
- Nick Scott