It’s a misperception that the Orioles will do anything to avoid arbitration. That was the case under former team president Andy MacPhail.
It’s not the case now.
Arbitration helped make the Orioles what they were in 2012.
Last year, Jeremy Guthrie, the de facto staff ace, who twice led the American League in losses, was a season away from free agency.
He’d worn out his welcome with manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair, but at the time the Orioles were woefully thin on accomplished major league pitchers.
The summer before, MacPhail had gauged the trade market and found lukewarm interest in Guthrie.
The Orioles had no desire to offer Guthrie a long-term contract, even though he enjoyed Baltimore and was popular with the fans. Guthrie’s “smartest guy in the room” act had work thin.
As the team’s player rep and a Stanford grad, the affable Guthrie is not lacking in confidence. He was looking forward to the arbitration process, he said. He said the same thing in 2010, but MacPhail and Guthrie settled before arbitration.
In late January, Guthrie asked for $10.25 million. The Orioles, now represented by Dan Duquette instead of MacPhail, countered with $7.25 million.
The Orioles certainly did not want to pay Guthrie $10.25 million. They didn’t even want to pay him $7.25 million.
The night before the arbitration hearing, around the time the Super Bowl was ending, Duquette put aside the Patriots-Giants game to put the finishing touches on the trade that helped make the Orioles season.
Duquette moved Guthrie, who was 47-65 with a 4.12 ERA, to the Colorado Rockies for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom.
At the time, the trade wasn’t popular in Baltimore. It is now.
Hammel had a 34-45 record with Tampa Bay and Colorado, and Lindstrom was just another reliever for the bullpen, many thought.
In his first start on Easter Sunday, Hammel carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning and two months later pitched the Orioles’ only complete game of the season, a one-hit shutout in Atlanta.
While he only won eight games, his work ethic in returning from surgery to his right knee, was instrumental in the team’s success.
Wei-Yin Chen won more games than Hammel. But, it was Hammel who Showalter wanted to start the first and fifth games against the Yankees, even though he hadn’t pitched in a game for more than three weeks.
Hammel earned Showalter’s trust, which is difficult to do. Guthrie never did.
Showalter was amused by Guthrie’s chiding of umpires who came to visit the Orioles in spring training. When was the last time an umpire was fired for incompetence, he’d ask? Showalter loved that. He didn’t like his know-it-all attitude.
Hammel wasn’t a know-it-all. He was a hard worker who easily adopted Adair’s suggestions, with excellent results.
Lindstrom pitched well for the season’s first month, but then tore a ligament in his right middle finger and by the time he returned seven weeks later, he’d been supplanted in the bullpen pecking order by Luis Ayala and Darren O’Day.
He was expendable.
Lindstrom, who wouldn’t have been retained by the team because his salary would have been too high, was flipped in late August for Joe Saunders.
In effect, Guthrie was traded for pitchers who started three of the Division Series games and won the Wild Card game.
An excellent return.
Hammel could go to arbitration early next year, but the betting is that he settles, maybe even gets a multi-year deal.
Innings eaters are hard to find.
Even if Hammel goes to arbitration, Duquette won’t be trading him. He’s far too valuable.
In February, Duquette did go through with an arbitration case when the club beat Brad Bergesen. Coming off a 2-7 season with a 5.70 ERA, Bergesen asked for $1.2 million. The club countered with $800,000, and won.
Bergesen had to settle for an 84 percent raise.
His actions annoyed the club, and he was buried in Norfolk and later taken off the 40-man roster.
Brought up to the team for one day in July, Bergesen was waived and claimed by Arizona. He pitched well for the Diamondbacks, with a 2-1 record and 3.64 ERA in 19 games.
Lindstrom, Bergesen and David Hernandez, traded in 2010 for Mark Reynolds helped give Arizona an effective bullpen.
Guthrie was 3-9 with a 6.35 ERA with the Rockies before a July trade to Kansas City. He was 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA with the Royals.
He’ll be a free agent this fall. The Orioles probably won’t be bidding on him.