What’s the price for pitching?

Jeremy Guthrie went 9-17 with an ERA of 4.33 for the 2011 Orioles. This July, he was traded from Colorado to Kansas City. After his first three starts with the Royals, he was 3-12 with a 6.10 ERA between the two teams.

This week, Guthrie signed a new deal with Kansas City for three years and $25 million. The Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal worth $15 million and there were reports that Kuroda could have gotten more from other teams.

While both pitchers are talented veterans, the amount of those contracts surprised me and maybe it’s a sign of what the price of pitching will be for upcoming free agents.

I’ve never understood why the signing of one player by one team (or two in this case) sets the market, but it seems to just about every winter. Any pitcher with a resume near, at or above the level of those pitchers is going to want what they got. Or more.

Andy MacPhail once said pitching was fragile and expensive and it’s clear what he meant by that.

I am not knocking Guthrie at all, as he pitched very well late in the year and the Royals clearly took note. He went 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA over his last 11 starts. I just didn’t see him getting three years or a package that included that much money.

But he did and now we’ll see what this all means for other free agents like Zack Grienke, Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez and Dan Haren. Does it price them out of the market for some clubs, like say, the Orioles?

What do the Guthrie and Kuroda deals mean for Joe Saunders, a pitcher the Orioles seem interested in re-signing? Saunders made $6 million last year and I’m sure is going to seek a multi-year deal worth more per season than that.

Even with all the talk about the bat the Orioles need or may be looking to add, I don’t think you ever turn your back on adding more pitching. Saunders seemed to be a very good fit for the Orioles and pitched two huge games for the club in the postseason. Would a two-year deal in the $14-16 million range be enough to lure him back?

There is nothing “free” about these players but you always have to take a strong look when it comes to adding quality pitching. But the price, as always, is high again this offseason.

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