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Transaction Analysis: Guthrie, Hammel, Lindstrom

Jeremy Guthrie escaped the AL East this week and rumors swirl that A.J. Burnett may join him in the National League. It isn't often that a trade to the Colorado inflates a pitcher's fantasy value, but that's exactly the situation that Guthrie is in. Since he wasn't traded for prospects, both pitchers received by the Orioles are in position to find their way onto fantasy rosters. We'll take a look at all three, one by one.

Jeremy Guthrie

Guthrie may be going mile-high, but Coors Field isn't quite the terror it was in the 1990s. Homers are likely to be a problem, given Guthrie's 41% career flyball rate, but Camden Yards wasn't a great place for him either, and the difference may not be that drastic. Though he'll be going to the world's most feared hitter's park (and owner of second place on ESPN's park factor list) he'll be staying away from Boston, Toronto, and New York (the third, fourth, and sixth-most hitter friendly parks in baseball) on the road, replacing them with trips to San Franciso, San Diego, and Los Angeles, so the park change isn't as bad as it sounds.

Of course, that isn't counting the hitters themselves. Pitching for Baltimore is more than pitching for a bad team, it's facing four of baseball's toughest offenses night after night. The general quality difference between the AL and the NL should help, too. Overall, the change in environment should be a wash at the worst for Guthrie's rate stats and strikouts, and could well give them a boost.

The biggest thing this trade has going for Guthrie and his potential owners, though, is in the wins category. The Rockies weren't exactly a great team last year, but they were a lot better than the Orioles and finished second in the NL in runs scored (some of that might have been the park...). As a team that underperformed its pythagorean record and plays in a competitive division, the Rockies make sense as a bounceback team; it's easy to imagine improvement showing up in Guthrie's wins statistic.

Finally, pitching for the Rockies means you can maximize Guthrie's return by playing him when he pitches on the road and sitting him on the bench for home games. It's especially easy in daily leagues, though the strategy can be managed in weekly leagues, too. With an ADP of 350.53 (and a draft percentage of under two!), Guthrie is being drafted behind the likes of Bruce Chen and the shell of John Lackey. He won't make or break any fantasy leagues, but he deserves a lot more consideration than he's getting.

Jason Hammel

Hammel once showed enough promise to make him an off-again, on-again member of my primary fantasy rotation last year. I'm hoping not to make that mistake again, though the trade to Baltimore might give him what he needed: weaker competition for a rotation spot. With an abysmal 4.97 K/9, the 2011 Hammel didn't belong on anyone's fantasy roster. Two years ago was a different story, though, as he posted a strikeout rate over seven and a FIP of 3.70. The Orioles will have no choice but to give Hammel a long look, giving you plenty of time to see if the strikeouts come back. If they do, he could be a useful starter again. If not, stay away. Far away.

Matt Lindstrom

The nature of Lindstrom's fantasy value is simple and binary: he either closes for the Orioles or he doesn't. As of now, Jim Johnson is the favorite for the ninth-inning job, but it's one of the least secure in baseball. Spring Training will likely be an open audition, in fact, even if it isn't one in name. Importantly, Johnson is new to the job, and Matt Lindstrom is a Proven Closer (with partial seasons for two different teams) who Throws Hard (he averages about 96 mph on his fastball). Sure, you'd think the Orioles had learned their lesson with Kevin Gregg, but some teams never learn.

Finally, for those of you watching closers and setup men, note that this probably makes Rex Brothers next in line for Colorado's closer job should Rafael Betancourt fail or get hurt.




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