Consider this step two in the Royals’ offseason rotation makeover project.
The Royals shelled out $25 million over three years Tuesday morning to retain free-agent Jeremy Guthrie, a veteran right-hander who resurrected his career last season in the closing weeks after arriving in a July 20 trade from Colorado.
“Kansas City was in my top two or three teams if I could hand-pick them,” Guthrie said. “When we got to a (salary) number that we were excited about, we didn’t feel a need to wait any longer or play the process out any further.
“I know the Royals are working on a number of things at their end. This gives them the ability now to focus all of their energies on getting another starting pitcher.”
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Retaining Guthrie, 33, follows the Oct. 31 acquisition of veteran right-hander Ervin Santana in a trade from the Los Angeles Angels for minor-league reliever Brandon Sisk.
And general manager Dayton Moore confirmed the Royals aren’t finished.
“We’re going to continue to look to upgrade,” he said. “The Winter Meetings are on the horizon (Dec. 3-6 in Nashville, Tenn.). We feel we’ve made a lot of contact with other clubs and laid some groundwork for some potential future deal.”
Moore conceded any further impact additions will require a corresponding move to clear payroll, which suggests it is more likely to come through a trade rather than another free-agent signing.
“The truth of the matter,” he said “is if we add another pitcher through free agency, which we’re still contemplating – still looking and pursuing – there wouldn’t be room to add that individual unless we got rid of somebody else.
“I think it’s safe to say we would be able to create some flexibility by making a deal or two to open up a spot not only in the rotation but also financially as well. We’ll still look to massage that in a way that works for us.”
Guthrie’s deal is structured in a club-friendly manner because it calls for just $5 million in 2013. That eases the impact of the $12 million the Royals are paying next year to Santana, who becomes a free agent after the season.
“It’s certainly a lot of money for one year,” Moore said, “but at the same time, that (Santana) deal gave us the flexibility to move forward with a multi-year deal with another free-agent pitcher.
“Jeremy is somebody who we knew the best, and (he) had a strong desire to be here in Kansas City. When you have that type of commitment from the player and the organization, it’s quite possible to get a deal done sooner than later.”
Guthrie’s salary escalates to $11 million in 2014 before dipping to $9 million in 2015. The deal contains award bonuses but no performance bonuses.
“There was no urgency on my part,” Guthrie said. “I was in London 24 hours ago. I flew in at 9 p.m. on Sunday night, and my agent called me and said we had an agreement that we liked.”
Guthrie jumped back on a plane to take a routine physical examination in Kansas City.
“I enjoyed my time here last year for all of the obvious reasons,” he said. “I think the trade for Santana shows, much like Dayton and everyone expressed at the end of the season, that they’re committed to adding pitchers and trying to complete this team.
“The offense performed very well. Defensively, we have some guys who can pick it and throw it. I’m happy to be a part of it, and I’m happy they wanted me as one of the pitchers they were trying to add going forward.”
Guthrie was 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 16 starts after arriving from Colorado, where he was 3-9 with a 6.35 ERA in 19 games.
“The way I pitched in Kansas City is much more indicative of how I’ve pitched over the course of my career,” he said. “If you grab the three months in Colorado – and even more specifically the home starts, where my ERA was 9.6 – it was an outlier.”
Guthrie averaged 198 innings over the last five years and is 55-77 with a 4.28 ERA in 210 games, including 183 starts, over his nine-year career. He pitched for Cleveland (2004-06) and Baltimore (2007-11) before a trade sent him to Colorado.
“We feel he can give us innings,” Moore said, “and give us everything you want in a starting pitcher with regard to those innings. Consistency and competitiveness. He brings a lot to us, and we’re fortunate that we were able to get a deal done.”