The American League East looks a little different now, thanks to the Baltimore Orioles and Colorado Rockiesmaking an early-morning pitching swap. Jeremy Guthrie, an eight-year veteran who has spent all but 37 innings of his career with the O's, is headed to the National League in exchange for Jason Hammel.
Guthrie has averaged 202 innings per year over the last four seasons, posting a K/BB ratio of 2.1 in that stretch despite just 5.3 strikeouts per nine. He's succeeded in part due to above-average control and consistently better-than-average batting average on balls in play. For his career, he has a .273 BABIP, despite playing in a park that benefits hitters.
Guthrie is a flyball pitcher, a fact that's easy to guess when you look at his homer rates. Moving to Coors Field won't benefit him in that regard, and given how Colorado works -- thin, cool air, expansive outfield -- his BABIP and homer rates are both sure to climb. It's a shame he couldn't escape Baltimore for somewhere a bit kinder to his profile.
Guthrie will make $8.2 million in 2012, after agreeing to a deal to move the trade along. Guthrie would have been useful in Boston, as they need someone capable of 200 innings a year in the AL East, but $8.2 million likely would have eaten up the rest of what they have to spend, as well as their flexibility. Guthrie also would cost more than say, Gavin Floyd, should Boston make a deal for him at some point. (Matt Garza's $9.5 million looks like an "only" next to Guthrie's salary). Would have been nice, but in the same way John Lannan at $5 million might be too much for what he can do, Boston is probably okay not being involved here.
It's a return to the AL East for Hammel, who spent the first three years of his career with Tampa Bay. Hammel has averaged just 175 innings per year in his three seasons with the Rockies, but innings at altitude are a bit tougher on the arm than those closer to sea level. It wouldn't be shocking to see him post a career-high in innings with the Orioles in 2012.
He misses a few more bats than Guthrie, and induces more grounders. He's basically been average since he became a full-time starter, according to ERA+. A useful piece to have, but it's a bit odd for the Orioles to go for a 29-year-old like Hammel -- who will be a free agent after 2013 -- in their position. Prospects would have been a tastier package for the likely last place O's, but, to be fair, Hammel can be flipped in the future as well, and has less salary for a club to take on than Guthrie ($4.75 million in 2012).
The Orioles also picked up Matt Lindstrom in the deal, putting him on his fourth team in as many years. He struck hitters out at a below-average pace in 2011, but for his career is right around the average, and he has groundball tendencies to spruce the overall picture up. He's a nifty get, like Hammel, and can easily be flipped at the deadline if he performs: the Orioles owe him just $3.6 million in 2012, and his $4 million club option for 2013 has just a $200,000 buyout should his new team not want to commit to him past this year.
The deal doesn't make the O's markedly better, but it does give them another arm for the pen. Maybe the prospect offers never materialized for Dan Duquette, but it feels like that's what this should have resulted in for them. There's always the deadline, of course, and this might explain some of the rush.