Orioles, Guthrie reach deal, avoid arbitration

Pitcher who made $650,000 last season agrees to 1-year, $3 million

February 13, 2010|By Dan Connolly and Jeff Zrebiec

A day after acknowledging that starter Brad Bergesen will begin spring training with a shoulder injury, the Orioles made sure another member of their rotation would not arrive disgruntled for next week's camp opener.

The team and right-hander Jeremy Guthrie agreed Friday to a $3 million contract for 2010, alleviating the need for a potentially contentious arbitration hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Fla., a day before Orioles pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota.

Guthrie, 30, who was 10-17 with a 5.04 ERA in 200 innings last season, had filed for $3.625 million, while the club had countered with $2.3 million.

"I think both sides made concessions in these negotiations. That's what it takes," said Guthrie, who was arbitration-eligible for the first time. "Considering all the risk that we would incur, as well as the team would incur, going to a hearing, this is a decision that I can be pleased with."

The $3 million deal, which is a substantial raise from the $650,000 Guthrie made in 2009, is slightly above the filings' midpoint. If Guthrie wins the 2010 American League Cy Young Award, he would receive an additional $100,000. He also could earn $50,000 bonuses if he finishes second or third in Cy Young voting, is named to the AL All-Star team or wins a Gold Glove, the AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player or the World Series MVP.

Because Guthrie was the last remaining arbitration-eligible Oriole, the decision means the club will not go to a hearing for a fourth straight year.

"We are pleased to reach an agreement with Jeremy and to avoid arbitration hearings with all of our arbitration-eligible players this year," said Matt Klentak, the club's director of baseball operations, who handled the negotiations.

Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who dislikes the arbitration process and the necessity of detailing a player's statistical shortcomings, expressed confidence early on that the club would avoid a hearing with Guthrie.

The pitcher, initially, wasn't so sure.

"I operated under the assumption since Day One that a hearing is where it would end up. The negotiations were slow for a long time," Guthrie said. "But thankfully to the Orioles, they felt that it was important out of respect to the process and, possibly, to us to put their best foot forward, give me some time to think about it and go from there. They made their best offer and put the decision in my hands."

Guthrie struggled in 2009, leading the AL in losses, but also setting a career high for innings and starts. He pitched well in 2008 but received a 15 percent pay cut that offseason because his salary for 2008 ($770,000), the Orioles contended, was out of line with the salaries of players of similar experience because of the lucrative contract he signed as a Cleveland Indians draft pick.

Tuesday's hearing would have pitted entities with previous arbitration success: The Orioles, who are 6-0 when led by general counsel H. Russell Smouse, versus Guthrie's agent, Brodie Van Wagenen and CAA Sports, which landed Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard a record-setting $10 million arbitration award in 2008.

Guthrie, the Orioles' Opening Day starter the past two years, is part of a promising rotation that includes offseason acquisition Kevin Millwood and a trio of young starters - Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Bergesen.

Bergesen told The Baltimore Sun on Thursday that he wouldn't be able to fully participate for at least the first 10 days of spring training because of a strained right shoulder capsule that he injured Dec. 9 while filming a promotional commercial for the Orioles.

Bergesen's 2009 season ended prematurely when he took a liner off his shin July 30 during a game against the Kansas City Royals. He didn't get onto a mound again until he threw 40 to 50 pitches for the commercial. He said he tweaked the shoulder "trying to be as realistic as possible" while throwing under the direction of the film crew.

Bergesen hasn't pitched from a mound since, but MacPhail expects him to be ready by Opening Day.

The Orioles, through communications director Greg Bader, declined Friday to comment further on the incident.

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