The Rockies watched their promising 2011 season collapse because the rotation fell apart.
Not enough starters. Not enough dependable starters.
Jeremy Guthrie, acquired Monday from the Orioles for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, should be an improvement. But is he enough, and is he the right guy for the job?
The Rockies rotation is deeper and more dependable, with the addition of Guthrie, as well as Guillermo Moscoso, Josh Outman and Tyler Chatwood, acquired earlier in the winter. It's still shaky enough, however, that Guthrie could well end up as the opening day starter (Jhoulys Chacin is the other likely option).
That's Guthrie, whose main strength is that he can be depended on for 200 innings a season. It's Guthrie, who the Orioles dealt precisely because they didn't see him as the leader of a staff, someone for their talented younger starters to emulate and take after.
Guthrie is a better fit in Colorado than he was in Baltimore, though, for several reasons:
-- Moving from the American League East to the National League West should help, and even though he'll make half his starts in Coors Field, starting regularly in Petco Park, Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park should help a fly-ball pitcher. Guthrie made 15 career starts in New York and Boston, winning just three of the games.
-- Guthrie, who signed a one-year, $8.2 million contract as part of the trade, should be motivated in his final year before free agency. Also, he's pitching for the team closest to his Utah home. Guthrie already posted a picture of himself in a Tim Tebow Broncos uniform.
-- The Rockies should be a contending team. Guthrie went 30-48 in his last three years with the Orioles, with two 17-loss seasons. He should be excited to be with a team that actually has a chance.
It's a low-cost acquisition for the Rockies, who tried but failed earlier this winter on some free-agent starters (most notably Hiroki Kuroda). Hammel was so inconsistent last summer that the Rockies at one point removed him from the rotation, and while Lindstrom has a good arm, it hasn't translated into great success.
Between them, Hammel and Lindstrom were set to make even more money than Guthrie this year, so the trade fits the Rockies budget-wise, as well.
What do the Orioles get out of it?
That's harder to see, since neither Hammel nor Lindstrom figures to be part of the long-term plan in Baltimore (and the Orioles hardly have a short-term plan for contending).
One way to look at it: As long as Guthrie was there, he was going to be the veteran starter that Orioles kids like Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton would watch. As long as Guthrie was there, he was going to be the focal point of the rotation.
When Pat Gillick took over the Phillies, he traded away veteran outfielder Bobby Abreu, in a move that allowed guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins to become the dominant personalities in the clubhouse. The Orioles want Arrieta and Britton to lead their rotation, and that may not happen as quickly when there's a guy who has been there as long as Guthrie had.
Should the Orioles have gotten more for a 200-inning pitcher with a good arm? That's easy to say, but when they put Guthrie on the market last July, there were no takers. There was little trade interest in him this winter, either.
The Rockies had followed him since late last season, though, and they saw him as an upgrade.
He should be an upgrade. The question is whether it will make enough of a difference.