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Jeremy Guthrie, Jake Westbrook, and Kyle McClellan

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Jeremy Guthrie—traded by the Orioles to the Rockies on Monday for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom—is better than Kyle McClellan or Jake Westbrook, but if the Cardinals are really trying to deal either of them for salary-relief purposes, the move makes me wonder why they appear to be having so much trouble. Bill James projections:

IP FIP Rates Due
Jeremy Guthrie 200.0 4.56 5.5/2.6/1.2 $8.2
Jake Westbrook 183.0 4.35 5.2/3.4/0.8 $9.5
Kyle McClellan 114.0 4.26 6.1/2.8/1.0 $2.5
Jason Hammel 149.0 4.17 6.5/3.1/0.9 $8.2

The Guthrie trade is salary-neutral, but the Orioles are getting two useful pitchers in the deal, one of whom has an extra year under team control, out of the deal; if the Cardinals are looking to trade McClellan for the 2012 equivalent of Luis Perdomo and most of their money back I'm not sure what the trouble is. (Westbrook has a no-trade clause, although the possibility of getting bumped into the Kyle McClellan role seems like sufficient cause to exercise it.)

(As for the move itself, I like it for the Orioles—I think the average mediocre team has more to gain from patching two potential sub-replacement-level holes on its roster than it does filling one with Jeremy Guthrie.)

Elsewhere: The Cubs trade their defensively suspect infielder for the younger model.

I'll say this for the Cubs' new braintrust: They will leave no opportunity for incremental improvement untaken, no matter how incremental. Starting at the beginning:

1. The Oakland Athletics, who have 40 supremely useful baseball players already on their roster, designated former top prospect Adrian Cardenas for assignment.

Quite simply, they could not resist the opportunity to pay Jonny Gomes, who hit .209/.325/.389 last year and .266/.327/.431 the year before that and is one of the worst defensive players in baseball.

Cardenas is one of the easiest players to overvalue in baseball—all you have to do is call him a 23-year-old second baseman who hit .314/.374/.418 last year. In reality, he's just barely a middle infielder and his .791 OPS was somehow below the PCL average.

Take that into account, though, and he's still a legitimate left fielder who played some second base last season (while batting left-handed!) and could do a good Skip Schumaker impression as a 24-year-old making the league minimum.

2. The Cubs grabbed Cardenas

Sounds good! Free 24-year-old who could play a significant bench role now and still has a prospect's pedigree!

3. The Cubs DFA Blake DeWitt

DeWitt was once one of the easiest players to overvalue in baseball—all you had to do was call him a 22-year-old second baseman who hit .264/.344/.383 in 2008 in the majors. In reality, he's just barely a middle infielder and his .728 OPS was probably higher than the Dodgers had a right to expect, given his performance in the minors the year before.

Take that into account, though, and he was still basically Adrian Cardenas.