Guthrie happy to stay in KC, inks three-year deal
Veteran right-hander, who came over in July 20 trade, to receive $25 million
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals wanted Jeremy Guthrie and the pitcher wanted a three-year contract, so the two sides constructed a deal that made everybody happy.
Guthrie, who impressed the Royals with a strong second half this year, signed a three-year, $25 million contract through 2015. The deal calls for $5 million in 2013, $11 million in '14 and $9 million in '15. Guthrie made $8.2 million this year.
The deal, announced on Tuesday, gives the Royals another solid starter to go with newcomer Ervin Santana, who was acquired from the Angels.
"They're committed to adding pitchers and trying to complete this team," Guthrie said. "The offense performed very well and defensively we have some guys that can go out there and pick it and throw it. So I'm happy to be a part of it and I'm happy that they wanted me."
General manager Dayton Moore said the Royals, who made starting pitching their offseason priority, aren't finished.
"We're going to continue to look to upgrade. The Winter Meetings are on the horizon," Moore said. "We feel we've made a lot of contact with other clubs and laid some groundwork for some potential future deals. You never know if they'll come to fruition, but we feel like we have plenty in our farm system to make a deal that impacts us -- not only in the pitching staff, but maybe somewhere else within our lineup. We don't feel like this roster is complete. We're not satisfied with where it is at this point, but we're very encouraged."
For now, Guthrie and Santana fit in a rotation picture that could also include Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Luis Mendoza, Will Smith and Jake Odorizzi. Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino will figure in later in the season when they come back from Tommy John surgery.
The addition of Santana was not a pivotal factor in Guthrie's return, although he considered it.
"It influenced me in the fact that I think Ervin is a good pitcher, and last year was a down year for him, and that what he's done over his career speaks for itself, prior to last year," Guthrie said. "It didn't change my thoughts. I really believed Dayton and the Royals when they said they wanted to add two or three pitchers and they wanted me to be one of them. So the fact they got Ervin just proved that point and I think they're committed to go out and get another one."
Guthrie, a 33-year-old right-hander, was obtained by Colorado in a trade with Baltimore last February after five workhorse seasons with the Orioles. He was the Rockies' Opening Day starter but struggled, especially at high-altitude Coors Field, where he had a 9.50 ERA in seven starts.
Meanwhile, left-hander Jonathan Sanchez foundered with the Royals, so the two clubs swapped the starters July 20. Guthrie blossomed with Kansas City and went 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 14 games. That resurrected Guthrie's career.
"I'm really grateful to the Rockies because they could've thrown me in the box and locked me up for the rest of the year and left me in a tough position in my career," Guthrie said. "But they saw a trade for me, let me go and gave me a chance to get back on track."
At Kauffman Stadium, Guthrie had a 4-2 record and a 2.40 ERA in nine starts and obviously was comfortable in the spacious ballpark.
"I think the biggest part of a pitcher's ballpark is having guys that can catch it behind you," Guthrie said. "Because my previous experience in pitching in Kauffman and other big stadiums is that although they're big and you can keep the ball inside the park, often it can lead to a lot of extra hits and some triples. ... So the biggest factor is how well our outfielders play it."
In 210 career appearances (183 starts) for Cleveland, Baltimore, Colorado and Kansas City, Guthrie has a 55-77 record and a 4.28 ERA.
Guthrie fell just 18 1/3 innings shy of his fourth-consecutive 200-inning season. His ability to grind out innings was an essential lure for the Royals.
"My No. 1 goal every year is to make all of my starts and try to get into the seventh, eighth or ninth inning, so if I can do those two things ... usually the result is 200-plus innings," Guthrie said.
Guthrie will turn 34 one week into next season and he'll be 36 for the third year of the contract. So a three-year deal held a certain risk for the Royals.
"Our medical people felt very comfortable with the three-year deal. I rely on them for that type of information," Moore said. "They felt very comfortable. He keeps himself in great shape. He's a tremendous worker and a clean liver. He takes care of himself. So we felt we could assume that risk."
Guthrie had just returned from London at the end of a tour when his agent relayed the proposed deal with the Royals. He agreed and quickly flew from his Utah home to Kansas City for a physical examination.
"Kansas City was in my top two or three teams if I could hand-pick them, and when we got to a number that we were excited about it, we didn't feel the need to wait any longer," Guthrie said.
The money committed to Guthrie and Santana, who has a one-year deal, amounts to $17 million for 2013. Moore indicated that to add more payroll through free agency could mean unloading salary elsewhere through a deal.
"For us to move forward with acquiring another pitcher through free agency, we would probably look to make room within our existing payroll by making a deal. The truth of the matter is if we add another pitcher through free agency, which we're still contemplating -- still looking and pursuing -- there wouldn't be room to add that individual unless we got rid of somebody else," Moore said.
That likely will provide conversation at the Winter Meetings. For now, Guthrie is back with the Royals.
"I think it's a great fit all the way around," he said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.