Rockies add an underrated arm in Jeremy Guthrie

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There’s nothing sexy about a 47-65 career record. Jeremy Guthrie has led the AL in losses twice and in homers allowed once. He’s never won even a dozen games or struck out more than 130 batters in a season. Still, the Rockies should be very happy to have him, especially for the modest price of Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom.

From 2009-11, nine full-time starting pitchers have left the AL East for greener pastures. All nine of them improved their ERAs immediately, and eight of the nine finished the next year with a superior ERA+, which adjusts for league and ballpark.

Here’s the list:

2008 Edwin Jackson (TB) – 4.42 ERA, 100 ERA+
2009 Edwin Jackson (Det) – 3.62 ERA, 126 ERA+

2008 Garrett Olson (Bal) – 6.60 ERA, 67 ERA+
2009 Garrett Olson (Sea) – 5.60 ERA, 77 ERA+ (11 starts, 20 relief appearances)

2009 Roy Halladay (Tor) – 2.79 ERA, 159 ERA+
2010 Roy Halladay (Phi) – 2.44 ERA, 167 ERA+

2009 Scott Kazmir (TB) – 5.92 ERA, 73 ERA+ (20 starts)
2009-10 Kazmir (LAA) – 5.12 ERA, 80 ERA+ (34 starts)

2009 Brad Penny (BOS) – 5.61 ERA, 84 ERA+ (24 starts)
2009-10 Penny (SF, STL) – 2.96 ERA, 141 ERA+ (15 starts)

2010 Matt Garza (TB) – 3.91 ERA, 100 ERA+
2011 Matt Garza (CHC) – 3.32 ERA, 118 ERA+

2010 Javier Vazquez (NYY) – 5.32 ERA, 81 ERA+
2011 Javier Vazquez (FL) – 3.69 ERA, 106 ERA+

2010 Shaun Marcum (Tor) – 3.64 ERA, 115 ERA+
2011 Shaun Marcum (Mil) – 3.54 ERA, 110 ERA+

2010 Kevin Millwood (Bal) – 5.10 ERA, 82 ERA+
2011 Kevin Millwood (Col) – 3.98 ERA, 113 ERA+ (9 starts)

Now, granted, there are some huge sample-size issues here. It might be worth throwing out Olson and Millwood entirely, given that Olson lost his spot in Seattle’s rotation and Millwood got only nine starts for the Rockies. But I didn’t try to further my point by including John Smoltz or Ian Kennedy, since they had received only limited action with Boston and New York, respectively.

Anyway, pitching in the AL East is simply a different beast, in my opinion. That’s especially the case for Orioles hurlers. Not only do they often have to face four offenses that have tended to range between good and great, but they have to do it half of the time in one of the league’s toughest home run parks.

Guthrie, for what it’s worth, had a 4.33 ERA and a 95 ERA+ last year. In 2010, he finished with a 3.83 ERA and a 119 ERA+. As a modest flyball pitcher going to Coors Field, his numbers probably aren’t in for much of a boost. In fact, in adjusting his Rotoworld projection today, I merely dropped his ERA from 4.38 right back to 4.33.

Still, that makes him a substantial upgrade in Colorado. The Rockies got a 4.73 ERA from their starters last year, and the group averaged only 5.8 innings per start. Guthrie has averaged 6.3 innings per start in his career, and he’s been doing it against the Red Sox and Yankees, not the Padres and Giants.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.

Rob Manfred talks about playing regular season games in Mexico

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.

Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.

“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”

A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.

Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.

Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.