The Kansas City Royals re-signed Jeremy Guthrie to a three-year contract today. The deal is worth $25 million with it broken down as $5 million in 2013, $11 million in 2014 and $9 million in 2015. The right-hander will remain with the Royals through the 2015 season after being acquired from the Colorado Rockies mid-season in exchange for disappointing lefty Jonathan Sanchez. Guthrie was once a top prospect after being selected in the first round of the 2002 draft by the Cleveland Indians, but struggled there before moving on to the Orioles where he found his first taste of career success. As an Oriole, Guthrie 47-65 with a 4.15 ERA in 161 games (153 starts) in the rough and tumble American League East. He threw more than 200 innings in three of his five seasons before being traded to the Rockies prior to the 2012 campaign.
Guthrie was not a fit with the Rockies where he struggled, mostly due to Coors Field. Dave Eiland saw something in Guthrie and the Royals were able to trade for him in exchange for the aforementioned Sanchez. With the Royals, Guthrie struggled in his first couple of starts before turning it on and taking control of the ace of the staff with a 5-3 record and 3.16 ERA in 14 starts spanning 91 innings. He didn’t strike out a ton, getting just 5.5 per nine innings, but his control was excellent with just 1.9 walks per nine innings. With a WHIP of 1.13, he gave the Royals a legitimate chance to win every fifth day.
Guthrie was excellent after coming over, but I’m not personally a huge fan of a three-year deal for him as he’s getting up there in years, and will pitch the 2013 season as a 34 year old. Generally signing players for their age 34, 35 and 36 seasons isn’t a great idea, but hopefully he can keep up what he did for the Royals in the second half over the next couple years at least. My biggest question is what does that mean for the future of Luke Hochevar. As I wrote yesterday, the Royals need to move on and I think the re-signing of Guthrie makes that more likely than it was yesterday.
The good news with Guthrie is he doesn’t seem to be declining in any way yet. I think it helps that in spite of his age and his track record of being an innings eater, he still has thrown just 1,200 big league innings, which means his arm might be a little younger than the rest of him, if that makes any sense. His velocity has remained steady at about 92.5 MPH on his fastball. He’s a smart pitcher, so he has that going for him, but again I’m just a little concerned at the length of the deal.
For the 2013 Royals, this means they have at least 3/5 of their starting rotation set if you consider Bruce Chen a lock for the rotation. I think this takes a trade for a bigger money pitcher off the table unless the Royals are willing to go above the $85 million mark they continue to throw out there as a payroll ceiling. All in all, this move probably helps the Royals in 2013, but 2015 may be a year that’s being robbed from a little to make this. I cautiously like the move as long as Guthrie isn’t the number two starter next season. My fear is he will be.
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