Orioles, Guthrie agree to one-year, $5.75 million deal

Team avoids salary arbitration with best starter from last season, this year's projected ace

February 11, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

Two days before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the Orioles crossed one final thing off their offseason to-do list Friday, agreeing to a one-year, $5.75 million deal with Jeremy Guthrie.

Guthrie, the club's likely Opening Day starter, was the sixth and final Oriole eligible for arbitration. His signing extends the Orioles' streak of not going to a potentially contentious arbitration hearing for a fifth straight year. Since being named general manager of the Minnesota Twins in November 1996, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has not gone to a hearing with a player.

The deal represents a compromise as Guthrie had filed for $6.5 million while the Orioles were offering $5 million. The $5.75 million contract represents the midpoint and is a $2.75 million raise for Guthrie, who went 11-14 with a 3.83 ERA in 2010, logging 2091/3 innings in 32 starts.

"I don't look at it necessarily as a relief," Guthrie said. "It's a huge blessing, of course, to agree on a contract that guarantees me a lot of money to play a game I really enjoy playing. When you get to this point in your career, there's an understanding of the arbitration process and you understand that it may end up in a hearing or it may not. You do your best to be prepared for either one of them. It's just part of the process, and the next step for me personally, and it's a good step for us as an organization. Now, all the attention can be on spring training and us molding together as a new team."

Guthrie, who turns 32 in April and is the third-longest-tenured Oriole behind Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis, will be eligible for free agency after the 2012 season. His agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports, approached the team about a potential long-term extension during the early part of the negotiations, but he was told by Orioles director of baseball operations Matt Klentak that the club wasn't interested at that point.

Guthrie, who has made 121 starts over the past four seasons after the Orioles picked him up on a waiver claim from the Cleveland Indians in 2007, said he understands the club's position and doesn't take it personally.

"I don't have any hope for it to work out. We approached them with it, and it seems like a pretty clear answer that they're not interested," he said. "I have no problem with that. I fully understand all the factors in determining whether a team is interested. You have to consider age, where the team is, the prospects coming up. It doesn't surprise me that they're not interested.

"I'm not ruling it out. I think they ruled it out for me. … It's not a question of do they like Jeremy Guthrie or not. We asked them and they declined, and that's perfectly fine. Right now where the team is and where I am, it wasn't a good fit in their opinion."

Still, as part of his new contract, Guthrie, perhaps the most engaging Oriole, expressed interest in meeting owner Peter Angelos to talk about things beyond baseball, along with thanking him for the deal.

"I'm interested because Mr. Angelos has had a big impact on the Baltimore community and what has gone on in my life," Guthrie said. "I'm grateful that he has enough confidence in me to write a check that is a tremendous amount of money for the opportunity to play baseball. I'd just like to spend some time with someone who has done a lot in his field and a lot for Baltimore."

Guthrie is one of five Orioles pitchers to reach the 200-inning plateau in the 2000s, and only the second (Sidney Ponson is the other) to do it twice. He went 8-4 with a 2.76 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break and worked at least six innings in 28 of his 32 starts. His 2091/3 innings pitched were the 14th-highest total in the American League.

Guthrie's hearing had been scheduled for Wednesday in Phoenix, but it has been cancelled. Last year, in his first year of arbitration, Guthrie's case was resolved Feb. 12.

"I think, first off, the process this year was very good and very amicable, even more so than last year," Van Wagenen said. "There was never a period where more than a day or two went by that we didn't have productive dialogue. We just had a long way to narrow the gap and compromise and finally get the job done."

On Thursday, the Orioles avoided arbitration with outfielder Luke Scott, agreeing to a $6.4 million deal with the slugger. The club settled its other four arbitration cases without formally exchanging numbers, agreeing with Felix Pie ($985,000), Jim Johnson ($975,000), Adam Jones ($3.25 million) and J.J. Hardy ($5.85 million).

"We are happy that the focus will be 100 percent on the field right now," Klentak said. "That's the way it should be at this time of the year. The arbitration process exists to settle these disputes, but we are very happy to reach agreements with all six players. This process doesn't unfold overnight. It's a product of a lot of hard work on both sides."

The last time the team went to hearing was with starter Rodrigo Lopez before the 2006 season.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

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