Yesterday, ESPN had an interesting post about three potential moves the Royals could make to help improve their chances to make the postseason. The first two were obvious – call up the right player (Christian Colon) and to take advantage of an easy schedule the rest of the way. The third point was the most interesting, as it suggested that the Royals should go with a four man starting rotation the rest of the way, sending Jeremy Guthrie to the bullpen.
The suggestion is certainly a valid one. Guthrie, while he has had his moments of brilliance, has produced a 10-10 record with a 4.43 ERA and a 1.326 WHiP. Regardless of the metric used, Guthrie has been the Royals worst starter this season. Yet, he is considered valuable due to his ability to eat innings and preserve the bullpen.
Yet, with the rosters expanding, Jeremy Guthrie’s greatest asset, his ability to devour innings, may not be as important. With the expanded rosters, and an increased amount of relievers, then the Royals could still manage to keep his starters relatively fresh and manage workloads, particularly for Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. And, should any of those starters run into trouble early in a game, then Guthrie would be ready to eat up innings as the Royals long reliever.
Such a strategy would be fraught with risk. Even though Ventura and Duffy are not on an official innings limit, both are approaching 150 innings for the season. In this scenario, as the Royals have 26 games left, Ventura and Duffy would each receive an extra start. Is the idea of having either pitcher potentially throw six or seven more innings worth the risk, as long as it keeps Guthrie from pitching another approximately 30 innings in the rotation?
That may well be the case. While Jeremy Guthrie has been the consummate professional for the Royals, even deferring $3 Million of his contract, he has performed at less than a replacement level over the course of the season. At this point, with each game being of the utmost importance, Guthrie may not be the best option to send to the mound.
Putting Guthrie in that long relief spot vacated by the release of Bruce Chen, and going with a four man starting rotation, would be an unconventional move for a team and a manager that has not exactly been known to think outside the box. Yet, with the way the Royals have been scuffling as of late, that type of thinking may be what it takes to put the Royals back into the playoffs.
The Royals need to do something to get back on track. Removing Jeremy Guthrie from the rotation, and using four starters down the stretch, may be the best option.