As the 2012 season winds down, we’ve looked at a number of upcoming free agents whom the Indians could pursue in the offseason. We’ve already made the cases for the Tribe pursuing Brandon McCarthy, Melky Cabrera, and J.P. Howell. Today, we take a look at another potential winter target: Jeremy Guthrie.
Guthrie was Cleveland’s 22nd overall pick in the 2002 MLB amateur draft out of Stanford. From 2003 to 2006, Guthrie toiled in the minors, compiling a 40-36 record and a 4.39 ERA over 568.2 innings. He never pitched below the Double-A level and he received callups in the 2004 through 2006 seasons for the Indians, but he failed to find success before the Tribe released him in January of 2007 at the age of 26.
Guthrie has gone on to post respectable, but not fantastic, numbers since being thrown out by the Tribe. He pitched for Baltimore from 2007 through 2011 before being dealt to the Colorado Rockies (where he was miserable), who then traded him to Kansas City in 2012.
Guthrie averaged 196.2 innings per season with Baltimore while compiling a 4.12 ERA and 1.27 WHIP during his five seasons with the Orioles. He managed to go 47-65 (.420) on a team that went 336-473 (.415) over that time, performing better than average on one of the worst teams in the league (the Orioles finished last in the AL East in all but one of his seasons there).
Guthrie stumbled in the worst way in Colorado, but Coors Field has caused that fall for many pitchers before him. In 90.2 innings, Guthrie had a 6.35 ERA and allowed a whopping 21 home runs. Not good. Once landing in Kansas City, the old Guthrie came back, as he has gone 4-3 with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 56 innings.
Here’s what the Indians need to keep in mind when free agency hits is this: 14-11, 3.95 ERA, 234.2 IP and .235 BAA. Those are his career statistics against the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins in 43 games (33 starts). Remember that he posted this .560 winning percentage mostly with a team that won at a .415-rate while he was dealing for Baltimore.
It may be difficult for Mark Shapiro, who is now the President of the Indians, to sign Jeremy Guthrie due to the fact that he just threw him away while he was the GM without a return nearly six years ago; however, Guthrie fits a need for the Cleveland Indians.
Guthrie is not an ace. He’s an innings-eating, middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. While he has done well in his career at times, the lack of wins and the lack of sustained success in his career will result in his need to settle for a one or two-year deal this offseason. Guthrie will be 34 years old next April. By taking a chance on a player who you did not give a chance to in his first stint in Cleveland, the Indians will shore up the middle of their rotation.
If the Indians signed Guthrie and did nothing else, you would have a rotation of: Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jeremy Guthrie, Zach McAllister, and Carlos Carrasco. (Are you asking where Roberto Hernandez is on that list? It is simple: Hernandez would cost the Indians $9 million if they pick up his option. If they don’t pick up his option, there is not a buyout, so he walks without a dime. Hernandez is 52-59 with a 4.57 ERA since 2007 and he averaged 172 innings per season from 2007-2011.)
Guthrie may not be an ace, but he is reliable. The Indians need a pitcher who they can rely on to be effective for 200 innings. The Indians don’t have a guy like Jeremy Guthrie, so they need Jeremy Guthrie.