O’s swap Guthrie to Rox for Hammel and Lindstrom

On the day they were scheduled to go to arbitration with their ace the Orioles instead pulled off a trade, sending veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies on Monday in exchange for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom.

The move — while not entirely surprising given how Guthrie’s name has had a steady presence in trade rumors the past two seasons — still comes as a shock given the timing and leaves the Orioles’ rotation with a considerable hole to fill.

“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,” said Guthrie, last year’s Opening Day starter who has posted three consecutive 200-inning seasons in Baltimore. “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.”

The Orioles are trying to reverse a trend of 14 consecutive losing seasons, a goal of over .500 that executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has gone on record to say he believes is attainable in 2012. The addition of Hammel and Lindstrom gives the Orioles a starter to essentially replace Guthrie’s innings –Hammel has logged at least 170 innings the past three seasons – as well as a late-inning power arm in Lindstrom, who will presumably slide somewhere into the backend of the bullpen.

Duquette stressed the fact that both Hammel, who is still under team control, and Lindstrom, who has an option in his contract, will help the club this season and in 2013. Guthrie, who avoided arbitration by immediately agreeing to a one-year salary of $8.2 million with the Rockies, will be a free agent at season’s end.

“What I really like about both Jason and Matt is they have a walk-strikeout ratios approaching 1 to 3,” said Duquette, who refuted any reports that the Orioles were going to get top prospects from Colorado instead. “With the addition of these two pitchers and also [Wei-yin] Chen and [Tsuyoshi]Wada, you will see that we are adding to the pitching staff with pitchers that have good command and quality stuff.”

Hammel, 29, is 34-45 with a career 4.99 ERA in 169 games (115 starts) over six Major League seasons with Tampa Bay and Colorado. The right-hander figures to be a frontrunner for one of the Orioles’ five rotation spots with the competition including Chen, Wada, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter, and Dana Eveland, among others.

“The baseball doesn’t change for me,” said Hammel, who is coming off a 7-13 season in which he posted a 4.76 ERA in 32 games (27 starts). “It’s obviously just a different venue. I was able to learn some things about myself and really take some steps in the pitching mental part of the game at the end of the season last year. And I’m excited to go into the rotation with the Orioles and see if I can help out the team any way that I can.”

Lindstrom went 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA and two saves in 63 games for Colorado last season and is 12-15 with a 3.81 ERA and 45 saves in parts of five Major League seasons. His acquisition gives the Orioles’ another power arm and helps upgrade a bullpen that pitched more innings than any other team in the Majors last season.

In assessing the wealth of depth added to the pitching staff this offseason, Duquette said had a three-part goal: to get more options for starting pitchers at the big-league level, to get bullpen arms with better stuff and to ensure there was a group of reinforcements at Triple-A.

“I don’t know how it’s going to shake out,” Duquette said. “The pitchers we signed from the Japanese League do have options, some of the younger players do have options….we’ll try to do the right thing at Spring Training to give us the team with the strongest chance of winning.

I think overall we rushed some players to the big leagues in the past and that was reflected by some of their struggles in the big leagues…A 5-point ERA isn’t good enough to be a competitive big league pitcher & we’ve got numerous pitchers on the roster in that area.”

Guthrie, who went 9-17 with a 4.33 ERA last year, wasn’t one of them although the 32-year-old did lead the American League in losses.  Claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Indians, Guthrie will end his Baltimore career 47-65 with a 4.12 ERA and, he says, nothing but positive memories.

“Baltimore is where I consider my Major League career starting,” he said. “It’s where I was an everyday player, I made my first Opening Day start there. … I was lucky enough and fortunate enough to take advantage of the opportunity and when I look back on the five years, everything is positive. We didn’t play as well as we’d like to, I didn’t pitch as well as I’d like to, but I can say in the five years I was there, no one was ever doing giving less than all they had.”

An active fixture in the community and avid fan of social media –where he frequently uses Twitter to connect with fans – Guthrie will be missed as one of the most outgoing personalities in the Orioles’ clubhouse.

“This was my favorite team that I had ever played on, the one we were going to Spring Training with,” Guthrie said. “I’m going to miss that group of guys. I think they are going to do big things and it’s going to hurt when you’re not a part of it. I have no doubt that they are going to be better than last year.”

To make room on the Orioles’ 40-man roster for both Hammel and Lindstrom, the team designated left-handed reliever Clay Rapada for assignment.

1 Comment

I think that was a very short sighted trade!! Would love to still have Guthrie.

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