KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Two-and-a-half months in Kansas City changed the course of Jeremy Guthrie’s career.
Now, he’s going to try to keep it going for three more years.
The 33-year-old right-hander agreed to a $25 million, three-year deal to return to the Royals on Tuesday, solidifying another piece for what should be a retooled starting rotation next season.
Guthrie will make $5 million in 2013, $11 million in 2014 and $9 million in 2015.
“Jeremy pitched very well for us,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said on a conference call shortly after announcing the deal. “He’s someone we liked a great deal. We feel he can give us innings, give us consistency and everything you want in a starting pitcher.”
Guthrie struggled the first half of last season, going 3-9 with a 6.35 ERA for the Colorado Rockies, before getting traded to Kansas City for another struggling starter, Jonathan Sanchez.
Guthrie flourished at pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium, rediscovering the stuff that twice allowed him to win 17 games in a season for Baltimore. He went 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 14 starts for the Royals, and the team went 10-4 in his starts, winning 10 of the final 11 outings.
Guthrie was 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA in his final 11 appearances.
“The way I pitched in Kansas City was much more indicative of how I’ve pitched over the course of my career,” said Guthrie, who is 55-77 with a 4.28 ERA over parts of nine seasons.
“I believe in myself,” he said. “I made a couple of minor adjustments. I don’t think I changed everything. Obviously that’s where it starts, and after that, it was just getting that confidence and getting people out and believing I could do it again after struggling so bad.”
Both sides expressed interest in a new contract after Guthrie became a free agent, but talks didn’t intensify until the last few weeks. Guthrie was overseas this weekend when his agent called to let him know that the Royals had extended an offer that he thought was acceptable.
He flew back to Kansas City to undergo a physical and sign the contract.
“I’m happy to be part of it, and I’m happy they wanted me as one of their pitchers going forward,” said Guthrie, who earned $8.2 million last season. “This gives them the ability to focus all their energies on getting another starting pitcher.
The Royals have been hard at work this offseason in attempt to bolster a starting rotation that was 11th in the American League with a 5.01 ERA last season, and logged fewer innings (880) and wins (47) than any AL team but the Minnesota Twins.
Their biggest move was to trade for Angels right-hander Ervin Santana, giving up only a minor league pitcher and getting cash in the deal. But the small-market, budget-conscious club also is taking on the 2008 All-Star’s hefty contract – Santana is owed $13 million next season.
Moore said there’s a possibility the Royals could still add another starter during the offseason, perhaps during the winter meetings in December. Left-hander Bruce Chen and right-hander Luis Mendoza will be back, and Luke Hochevar is eligible for arbitration after once again failing to live up to the expectations that come with being an overall No. 1 draft pick.
The Royals also will get left-hander Danny Duffy and right-hander Felipe Paulino back from elbow ligament-replacement surgery at some point, though Paulino is also eligible for arbitration.
“We’re going to continue to look to upgrade,” Moore said. “We feel we’ve made a lot of contacts with other clubs and laid some groundwork for potentially some future deals. You never know if they’ll come to fruition. We still feel we have plenty in the farm system to make a deal that impacts us not only on the pitching staff but also in the starting lineup.”
The Royals made a series of moves later Tuesday to set their 40-man roster.
They designed for assignment right-hander Chris Volstad, whom they claimed off waivers from the Cubs. They also designated right-hander Vin Mazzaro, left-hander Ryan Verdugo, catchers Adam Moore and Brayan Pena, infielder Clint Robinson and outfielder Derrick Robinson.
That freed up space for left-handers Chris Dwyer, Donnie Joseph, John Lamb, Justin Marks and Mike Montgomery, and right-hander J.C. Gutierrez.
Kansas City also agreed to a $600,000, one-year contract with catcher Brett Hayes, leaving only Hochevar, Paulino and second baseman Chris Getz as unsigned arbitration-eligible players.
The Royals fielded one of the youngest lineups in baseball last season, and all of the key pieces will return. They also expect outfielder Wil Myers, ranked by many as the top minor league prospect in the game, to make his big league debut at some point next season.
“We expect to put a team on the field that’s going to compete to win the Central. That’s been our attitude from day-one,” Moore said. “I’ve said 2014 should be the year they produce from the first day to the last day, and stay competitive, but we’re not putting limitations on our team.