Jeremy Guthrie’s resurgence could be forcing the Baltimore Orioles into an interesting dilemma this summer. Coming off Guthrie’s horrendous 2009 season, in which he was 10-17 with a 5.04 ERA and a league leading 35 HR’s allowed, I was skeptical that he could regain the form we saw in ’07 and ’08. After a rough spring, I was even more doubtful. But Guthrie is pitching, arguably, the best of his career sporting a career low WHIP of 1.07. Granted last nights gem was against the Cleveland Indians, who are one of the worst offensive teams in baseball, but Guthrie has pitched himself into a player that could be very valuable for a pennant contender. The question for the Orioles is, how serious are they about the “wins and losses matter this year” mantra?
Depsite better play of late, the Orioles will clearly not contend this year. I don’t think contending for a play-off berth was every viable, nor what upper management expected. The Orioles are in a position where they have to question whether or not the rebuild is as far along as they had hoped. Most signs point to no and that means the club might be in a position to trade veterans for prospects again. But is that the best course to take at this point? Does it send the wrong message to players and fans to trade a guy like Guthrie from a team that is trying to win as many games as possible?
Guthrie is never going to be a #1 or #2 starter, but he is a value as a #3. Guthrie is 31 years old, so he presumably has some years left in the tank; and he is contractually under the O’s control for 2 more years. His stuff seems much improved over last year. While his command is not pinpoint, his fastball velocity is sitting comfortably between 92-95 mph (up from last year), and he has more life and finish on his other pitches. Most importantly, Guthrie seems to have figured out some things in his mental approach. Acquiring Kevin Illwood to be the veteran presence on the staff has seemed to taken a load off of Guthrie’s shoulders to be perfect every time out. Guthrie is a max effort, hard working guy, but he has been more relaxed and focused on attacking hitters, rather than being an ace.
So, what is of more value to the Orioles? Having Guthrie be a part of the staff for another two and a half years, or picking up younger players. And, does trading Guthrie indicate the Orioles are not where they need to be with their young talent?