Rox trade Hammel and Lindstrom for Guthrie

Even with pitchers and catchers due to report to Spring Training in less than two weeks, the Colorado Rockies continue to make trades. The club agreed to a deal with the Orioles Monday morning that sends right-handers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom to Baltimore for starter Jeremy Guthrie. 

Guthrie has been on the trade block for quite some time now and at first glance one may assume that was due to his expensive salary in his final year of arbitration ($8.2MM). However, even in adding Guthrie, the Rockies were able to save $300,000 as Hammel and Lindstrom will combine to make $8.5MM in 2012. The money, and the fact that the Rockies are actually saving some here, is the most fascinating part of the deal because the better haul in talent is unquestionably going to Colorado. 

There just isn't a case to be made that Hammel is on the same level as Guthrie. With all the arms that the Rockies have added over the last year, it wasn't certain that Hammel would make the final starting rotation. In three years with Colorado, Hammel posted a 4.63 ERA in 87 starts. In 2011, he showed clear signs of decline as he set a career high with 68 walks (3.6 BB/9, highest with the Rockies) and a career low as long as he's been a starter with 94 strikeouts in 170 innings. After posting strikeout-to-walk ratios of better than 3.0 in his first two years in Colorado, his paltry 1.38 mark in '11 justifies his departure. The Rockies are betting that Hammel is the pitcher he was last year and that even though he's older Guthrie is the safer bet. 

Guthrie, on the other hand, has never been a strikeout-to-walk master. His career number is merely 2.06, but he gets it done in other ways. He's a model of consistency as he's pitched in at least 30 games for five seasons in a row. The fact that he has led the league in losses two of the last three seasons merely gives you a snapshot of how things have been going for the Orioles of late. Over 1,020 major league innings, he's proved the ability to out-pitch his peripherals as his career ERA is 0.49 lower than his career FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). He also carries a career 40% ground ball rate, which makes him just an okay fit for Coors Field. He's also been tested time and again by the hitters in the American League East, so the change of scenery will be a welcome one as he's moving to a weaker hitting division. Guthrie is solid and likely the safer bet for success in 2012 than Hammel, which the Rockies seem to value more highly than the Orioles who don't figure to be in contention anytime soon. 

Lindstrom, the reliever in the deal, had the best season of his career with Colorado in '11 posting a 3.00 ERA. He doesn't have power stuff as evidenced by his inability to miss bats and limit hits, but he's a fine middle reliever (albeit a bit of an expensive one). The big head-scratcher here is why the Orioles would take on the salary of both Lindstrom and Hammel, who aren't essential personnel for a rebuilding team. It appears that they were doing everything they could to get rid of a pretty decent starter in Jeremy Guthrie. One has to believe if there was any kind of a trade market for Guthrie that they'd have received a better return for him. This was a team making a challenge trade that, frankly, had no business making a challenge trade. 

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