Is Guthrie pitching himself out of K.C. market?
KANSAS CITY, MO - The good news is that Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie seems to have righted his career after the nightmarish experience of pitching in Colorado.
The bad news is that Guthrie has been so good lately – flirting with a no-hitter in his last start and pitching 22 2/3 straight innings without allowing an earned run – that he may be pitching himself right out of the Kansas City market.
Guthrie is making $8.2 million this season, and if he continues to pitch this well in September, he'll have a lot more suitors in the free-agency market than just the Royals.
And any offers, especially if they come from the big boys in New York or Boston or Texas, could dwarf what the small-market Royals can muster up.
Of course, the first question is whether or not the Royals will even get involved in the bidding.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore said that decision is part of the ongoing evaluation of Guthrie.
"It doesn't do us any good to announce to you or anyone else what our intentions might be," Moore said. "It's a decision we will make internally, and we will do all the evaluations any club might do in terms of a player's ability and in terms of the financial considerations."
Are the Royals interested in making a pitch for Guthrie?
"Well, let me say this: We were interested enough in him to trade for him," Moore said. "That shows interest.
"He's pitching very well right now and this is a good situation for him. He has some freedom again, so to speak, in terms of his pitching. We know he has ability. We know he likes the ballclub here and he likes (pitching coach) Dave Eiland. There are a lot of positives.
"But I just can't answer right now what the long-term forecast will be. Like I said, it's a process of gathering information on not only him, but on everyone. We're certainly very pleased with the results he's been able to produce. We know what he brings to the table and there are a lot of positives in that."
If there seems to be some caution in Moore's words, it is only natural. General managers have to be cautious not to get too giddy about three or four starts, and then back up the Brinks truck to sign a soon-to-be 34-year-old pitcher.
Then again, the Royals aren't exactly overflowing with quality starters right now. Guthrie, prior to the Colorado experience, had the reputation of a pitcher who could eat close to 200 innings a year. And that bulldog mentality is exactly what Moore craves in a starting pitcher.
"Ultimately we would like a starting rotation that can pitch 1,000 innings," Moore said.
Doing the math, that's obviously 200 innings per starter, a feat no present Royals starter has managed, although Luke Hochevar made it to 198 in 2011 and Bruce Chen got to 197 many years ago.
Guthrie could be a valuable stop-gap over the next two years as the Royals wait on Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino to recover from Tommy John surgeries. The Royals also need to buy some time with prospect John Lamb , who had the same surgery in 2010 and will need to regain his promising form.
The question becomes how much will it cost the Royals to keep Guthrie. If he finishes strong, he could command at least a two-year deal worth over $20 million, which would seem to be within the Royals' financial reach.
The offers could come higher, though, once larger markets enter the bidding process.
"It's all speculation at this point," Moore pointed out, "but he was available last winter."
True, the Orioles shopped Guthrie throughout baseball then and came back with precious few offers, though they did end up acquiring Jason Hammel who has been steady when healthy for the Orioles this season.
"We have a lot of balls up in the air right now," Moore said. "We have a lot of decisions to make regarding the team we will have the rest of this season, the team we will have in 2013 and, not to mention the decisions we will need regarding the 40-man roster.
"It's (possibly signing Guthrie) right in the mix with all our decisions right now. In the meantime, we're very excited about the way he is pitching and helping this ballclub win games."