With five days remaining before the July 31st trade deadline, let’s take a look at one of the Orioles’ most coveted trading chips: Jeremy Guthrie.
Veteran starting pitchers are always in demand for contenders at the deadline, and Guthrie figures to be one of the five best starters who stand a realistic chance of being traded. While hurlers like Ubaldo Jimenez and James Shields might be more tempting targets with true front-of-the-rotation potential, Guthrie will require a significantly more modest haul and may be the best value candidate on the market. With an additional season of control before hitting free agency and experience against the best lineups of the AL East, acquiring Guthrie for a B-level prospect and a one or two other modest pieces could be a wise move for any contending team, especially those in the National League.
Here’s a look at some of the teams in the market for starting pitching and how they might match up with the Orioles:
The Tigers have reportedly been the most aggressive club in pursuit of Guthrie’s services. Lacking the depth of dispensable blue-chip prospects needed to land a true ace, Detroit may opt to stabilize MiL depth for the inning-eating Guthrie.
Oliver, 22 years old, is a former second round pick who has risen through the system quickly but stalled out some this year in AAA. There were some questions about Detroit’s handling of the young starter last year as he vaulted between three high levels and debuted in the big leagues during his first pro season. As a young lefty with a good frame who can miss bats and is almost ready to return to the big leagues, Oliver is an intriguing target. On the other hand, Oliver must make serious adjustments to his control/command, as he has a history of giving up far too many walks and home runs.
At age 25, Furbush is not exactly a high-profile prospect, but he has a consistent track record of Minor League success even if he’s been about a year too old at each stop. Also a solid-bodied lefty, Furbush may end ultimately end up in the bullpen, where he’s already had a little bit of Major League success, but is ready to step into a big league rotation now. He could stick as a 4/5 starter.
While neither of these pitchers has star potential, MacPhail is rumored to be seeking pitching in return for Guthrie, and he could end up with a couple of solid #3-5 starters in this deal. Package them with a bench bat like OF/1B Ryan Strieby, and Detroit could offer up fair value for Guthrie. Still, both pitchers have flyball tendencies that are not conducive to Camden Yards and the Orioles may be able to attain higher ceiling talent elsewhere.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals did not seem likely suitors for Guthrie’s services a month ago, but one name has changed that: Colby Rasmus. The immensely talented outfielder has been somewhat at odds with St. Louis management since his rookie season, and is supposedly being shopped for talent this July. Rasmus is likely the single best player the Orioles could hope to receive in return for Guthrie, and though the birds currently have a good young center fielder, it’s clear that their number one organizational hole is at the position of talent. A team so far from contention needs to collect talent by whatever means necessary and sort out the details later. One of Jones or Rasmus could easily slide to left field and provide an above average offensive/defensive combo. Or, a Rasmus acquisition could free up the club to trade burgeoning star Adam Jones for a huge haul in the off-season.
The Cardinals will likely seek a greater impact talent than Guthrie in exchange for Rasmus, like Jimenez or BJ Upton, but Guthrie is the most likely to be dealt. Baltimore could sweeten the deal by including shutdown reliever Koji Uehara in an attempt to add some depth to the return, but the details don’t really matter. Rasmus, who is only 24 and has three seasons remaining until free agency, is an excellent buy-low, change-of-scenery target. Baltimore cannot be concerned with needing quantity in a deal when such a talent is being dangled. If there is any possible way that the Orioles could acquire a young, high-upside talent like Rasmus by dealing some combination of Jeremy Guthrie and relief pitchers, he should become their top target.
The Reds have been long-discussed as a potential destination for Jeremy Guthrie. Their interest in the righty has apparently cooled some, but if other starters are unattainable interest in Guthrie may return.
Any deal with the reds must center around 1B prospect Yonder Alonso. Alonso is not likely to become an elite offensive force at first base, but he provides contact skills, patience, and enough raw pop to hold value at the position. He has a polished approach at the plate, and his contact skills should transition fairly easily. He could evolve into a cheap, .290/.360/.470 bat within a year or two, which is not production to be scoffed at. Alonso is exactly the type of Major League ready, B-level prospect that is a logical target in return for Jeremy Guthrie.
If MacPhail insists on a package including young pitching, 24 year old starter Travis Wood and 23 year old reliever Bradley Boxberger are logical additions. Wood has already experienced some success in the Major Leagues and could potentially stick as a #3-5 starter. Boxberger has control/command issues but plus stuff that could play well as a set-up man or closer.
The Rangers, Pirates, Twins, Yankees and Red Sox have reportedly asked about Guthrie. There are several other teams in the hunt for starting pitching as well. Even if high impact talent like Rasmus is largely a pipe dream, there does seem to be sufficient interest to generate a favorable return for Baltimore.
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