Well, it’s a start.
As first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Miami Marlins signed journeyman pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to a minor league deal yesterday. It’s no secret that the team has been looking for some kind of answer to the fifth starter riddle in their rotation. It should also not come as a surprise that solutions are starting to be pursued more aggressively with a best-since-2012 record and a series win against the best-in-baseball Chicago Cubs under their belts.
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What would come as a surprise though, even for the cash strapped and prospect starved Marlins, is if this is the only transaction that takes place between now and the MLB Trade Deadline.
Guthrie is not without his fine qualities. He likes long walks on the beach, knowing when to listen….sorry, reading the wrong web page. He’s an innings eater though, with last season being the first time since 2006 he didn’t throw for at least 175 IP. And that 2006 blip is sorta cheating, as he didnt spend a full year in the majors until 2007. Guthrie has five 200 plus IP seasons on his ledger, and his 148.1 IP last year would have been the second best total on the Marlins by a wide margin. He’s been a Kansas City Royal since 2012, so he has World Series experience on his resume, and boasts a 1-1 record in Fall Classic play.
On the other hand, he’s not good. With a career ERA of 4.37, you really have to buy into all the relatively intrinsic reasons detailed above to see him as a clear upgrade over Justin Nicolino. His 2015 season saw him finish just shy of a 6.00 ERA, and his AAA numbers thus far in 2016 have him nostalgic for that pathetic 2015 stat line, as he’ll be bringing a 3-5 record and 6.60 ERA with him to New Orleans. If he gives up another run, he won’t just need Jim Benedict; he’ll need an exorcist.
But much more so than Paul Clemens, he buys time. Guthrie doesn’t have a ton of credibility to trade on, but has enough to make that claim. If the Marlins front office decides that Nicosart (patent pending) needs more time fine-tuning things on the farm, Guthrie is another interim option that they can put out there and not worry about messing him up for the future by letting his arm soak up mediocre innings and save the bullpen. If a young pitcher is struggling, you lift him and direct him to the showers via the video room. But a journeyman like Guthrie? Regardless of score, he’s giving multiple innings.
It’s also entirely possible that he is the last starting pitcher Miami acquires this season. “Not good” is alright production from the No. 5 spot in the rotation, provided he can pepper in some average efforts now and then. Or maybe he’s just injury insurance, ready to step in should a current starter end up on the DL.
What I find most interesting about this move though is what it might say about how the trade market is shaping up. The Marlins have been linked to numerous names in the past week, some of them starting pitchers, and some of them relievers. What adding Guthrie says to me is that the team either doesn’t like their chances of being able to deal for a starter worth adding, or just doesn’t see the point. It tells me that either by lack of ability to make a trade, or by outright design, they’re content to continue to mix and match with that fifth spot.
Meaning that they are confident, or just believe it to be the best approach overall, that they’ll be making a substantial upgrade to the bullpen. This 2016 model of the Miami Marlins are not a mirage, and even the questionable version of Business/Public Relations 101 Jeffrey Loria took at Owners School would tell him he’s on the hook now to do something flashy, even if it does mean adding payroll. The market for starting pitching the last couple seasons has been so intense that adding two relievers might be even be cheaper than a controllable, upside arm like Jake Odorizzi or Drew Pomeranz. So until the rumors pour in telling me otherwise, the Guthrie move has me leaning towards either Aroldis Chapman or Fernando Rodney being that flash heading to Miami next month.