Jeremy Guthrie and the Washington Nationals agreed to a minor-league deal. Can the grizzled veteran make the big club in 2017?
The Washington Nationals continued to add to their pitching depth Friday by signing Jeremy Guthrie to a minor-league dead and an invitation to Spring Training. Guthrie, 38, has an opt-out of March 27 if he fails to make the final roster.
After a series of cost-controlled veteran signings meant to bolster the starting rotation and bullpen, this offer is a head scratcher. Guthrie’s last major-league season was 2015 and was a statistical disaster.
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The Nats hope to give Erick Fedde and Austin Voth all the time they need to prepare down on the farm. Yet, if Washington suffers an injury to any of the current starters—three of them suffered substantial injuries in 2016—then the kids, along with A.J. Cole, will make the jump.
By signing Guthrie and Vance Worley to a paid tryout, the Nationals hope they can use veteran options to fill a short-term injury as the young arms mature without the added pressure of pennant race baseball. Worley can succeed if needed.
Guthrie? The cracked magic eight-ball says to get your Maalox ready.
The last time Guthrie’s ERA dipped below four was after his trade to the Kansas City Royals from the Colorado Rockies in 2012. In 14 starts with KC, his ERA was 3.16 at 33. By the time the Royals had their championship season in 2015, his ERA jumped to 5.95 and he lost his spot as a starter.
Last year, Guthrie pitched in Australia and two different teams in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Between El Paso and New Orleans, the experience was a disaster. In 17 starts, his 6-8 record was the highlight. His 7.17 ERA, 1.765 WHIP and 120 hits allowed in 86.2 innings were not.
It is hard to see how Guthrie seriously has a shot to make the Nationals. It was four years ago that he threw more innings than hits allowed. His walk rate climbed from 2.2 BB/9 in 2014 to 3.4 last year. The strikeout rate is constant at 5.5, but remember he dropped a level of baseball.
It is possible working with Mike Maddux and video technology can spot a mechanical flaw Guthrie can fix. Three times with the Baltimore Orioles, he topped 200 innings. But, that was nearly a decade ago. Twice in that stint, he led the American League in losses.
Washington hopes by getting enough pieces they can convert one of these pieces of coal into a diamond. In Guthrie’s case, that would be a modern day miracle.