Once again, Baltimore is no longer in contention for the playoffs. Promises of an improved season under Buck Showalter have not materialized mainly due to the under-performance of both the starting and relief pitching.
With relatively few top pitching prospects coming through the Minor Leagues, Baltimore is in need of decent arms. While this could be addressed through the free agent market or trading some of their offense, the best option may be to trade their ace Jeremy Guthrie.
Guthrie is an underrated pitcher. While he has struggled this season and in particular in the last month, Guthrie has put up impressive career numbers.
In three out of his last four years, his ERA has been under four, his WHIP has been under 1.30 and most impressive, his WAR has been above four.
While Guthrie would not be an ace with a competing team, he would undoubtedly make a good third or fourth starter.
Guthrie is making $3 million for the 2011 season and has another year of arbitration before hitting free agency next year. This makes Guthrie a very attractive proposition compared to, say Hiroki Kuroda who is earning four times that. Any team that takes Guthrie would also have to option to sign him to a long term deal.
A deal for Guthrie would benefit Baltimore in the long run. Every team wants reliable starting pitching and Baltimore has the chance to get a decent return out of trading Guthrie. With just over a year before his free agency, it gives Baltimore more freedom to get a better deal.
While they do not have to trade him just now, it is possible they will get a better return than they would by trading him in the offseason or at next year’s deadline.
Guthrie has already been linked to Detroit and www.mlbtraderumors.com reports the Tigers are willing to trade prospect Charlie Furbush to get Guthrie. With another player added to deal, this may work for the Orioles.
Division rivals Boston and New York are also actively searching for starting pitching. With Baltimore actively looking for pitching prospects, New York may be a better fit as a trading partner. Manny Banuelos is probably off limits but the Orioles could work out a deal based around Dellin Betances or Andrew Brackman.
What could prevent Baltimore from trading Guthrie is the state of their pitching. Of the regular starters, only Zach Britton has an ERA under five and he has been recently demoted to the minors. Apart from Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara, the bullpen has been equally unreliable.
While Guthrie has not been anywhere near his best this season, he still leads the side in innings pitched, something Baltimore is not getting out of the rest of their pitchers. Removing Guthrie from the rotation would potentially cause all kinds of short term problems for the Orioles.
It may well be that Baltimore decides not to trade Guthrie. But with the club not ready to compete anytime soon and his free agency looming, it may be best to let him go if Baltimore can get the right package.