Rox acquire Guthrie in trade with Orioles
Veteran righty arrives in swap for hurlers Hammel, Lindstrom
True, the Rockies were looking for an experienced arm to put atop their young rotation, but not just any veteran would do.
"The right kind of guy," Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd said. "The list was pretty small."
One of those few names was Jeremy Guthrie, whom the Rockies acquired from the Orioles on Monday in exchange for right-handers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom.
"We had interest in Jeremy for a while," O'Dowd said.
The 32-year-old right-hander, who went 9-17 with a 4.33 ERA in 32 starts for the Orioles last year, was eligible for salary arbitration this year.
Guthrie's hearing was scheduled for Monday, but he agreed to a one-year deal with the Rockies worth $8.2 million. He can become a free agent following the 2012 season.
"The Rockies have been one of those teams that has consistently had interest, and I guess that's the silver lining in the big change," Guthrie said. "I get a chance to go to a city and play for a team that's ready to win now and ready to go after it and doing everything in their power to do that. I'm excited to pitch meaningful games all season, right from the start."
Though trade rumors had swirled around Guthrie last summer, he was caught off guard Monday.
"The trade was very surprising," he said. "Especially the timing of it."
Guthrie was seeking $10.25 million in arbitration, with Baltimore submitting a $7.25 million figure when the numbers were turned in last month.
"I told [my agent] whatever, let's just work out a deal, let's get it done," Guthrie said of settling so quickly with the Rockies. "I don't think anybody at that point was prepared to get a hearing. We can move forward now without any distractions."
Guthrie led the American League in losses last year while pitching for the last-place Orioles, but there's a big difference between pitching in the AL East against teams like the Yankees and Red Sox and pitching in the National League West in pitcher-friendly ballparks in San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
"We know he's an outstanding competitor, as well as a great athlete," O'Dowd said. "We think the change of leagues will help him."
While Guthrie is not intimidated by pitching at Coors Field, he's never done so in his career. He spoke with former Rockies right-hander Kevin Millwood after the trade, saying Millwood told him that other than the ball carrying a little more, it was not that big of a deal.
Guthrie also jokingly pointed out that he has experience pitching in the high altitude.
"I pitched at BYU and I played in Colorado Springs against Air Force," Guthrie said in reference to a six-inning stint in which he allowed just one run. "You know my career ERA in Colorado is one-and-a-half, so we've got a great track record coming in."
Guthrie is a workhorse, having averaged 202 innings pitched over the last four seasons. That is important for a Rockies rotation that figures to consist mainly of younger pitchers who will need to have their innings monitored.
The Rockies will try to sort out the rest of the rotation this spring from a group that consists of Jhoulys Chacin, Guillermo Moscoso, Josh Outman, Drew Pomeranz, Juan Nicasio, Alex White, Esmil Rogers, Jamie Moyer and Tyler Chatwood.
"We've got a lot of candidates, I know that," O'Dowd said. "I think the hardest part of our spring quite honestly is sorting through all of them and making good baseball decisions. Some of those guys could end up in our rotation, some could end up in the bullpen and some could end up in Triple-A."
Parting with Hammel and Lindstrom was not an easy decision for the Rockies. Both players will not be eligible for free agency until following the 2013 season.
Hammel was 7-13 with a 4.76 ERA in 27 starts for Colorado last year, while Lindstrom was 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA and a pair of saves in 63 relief appearances in 2011.
"We gave up two players that were part of this season and moving forward for us," O'Dowd said. "But you have to trade something to get something."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.