The former Milwaukee Brewers reliever had been designated for assignment after one year with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
At first glance, it may seem like the Brewers don’t need to focus much, if any, energy toward the team’s bullpen this offseason. After all, it was arguably the team’s top performing unit during the shortened 2020 season.
As things currently stand, the Brewers return NL saves leader Josh Hader, a reigning NL Reliever of the Year and NL Rookie of the Year in Devin Williams, as well as every other key piece who played a part out of the bullpen last season outside of David Phelps, who was traded midseason.
But there are still potential tough non-tender decisions that need to be made as well as long-rumored trades that could happen that could eventually open a need to acquire a reliever among other needed pieces. Should that be the case, a familiar name that could be worth considering just hit the free agent market.
Junior Guerra was non-tendered by the Brewers last offseason after pitching in 144 games over the previous four seasons for Milwaukee. Now he finds himself in need of a home once again.
How did Junior Guerra do in 2020 with the Diamondbacks?
For the most part, Guerra looked his normal solid self. He had a 3.04 ERA over 23 2/3 innings pitched in 2020 and although he had a bit higher 4.12 FIP to go along with it, that is the sort of trend that has followed him his whole career.
Though his WHIP rose a little above his career average (up to 1.352 from his career 1.290), Guerra’s strikeouts per nine (8.0 vs 8.2) stayed close to average. Meanwhile, his hard hit percentage (27.7%) dropped to the lowest rate of his career and finished in the top five percent in the league, similar to 2019 when his 29.4% hard hit rate was in the top six percent in the league.
Guerra’s main blip on the radar in 2020 was his walk rate. It rose to a career-worst 14.6%, which placed him in the bottom five percent in the league. Only once did he have a walk rate higher than 10.5%, though, and that was back in 2017 so a larger sample size may have seen that even out.
Why would it make sense for the Brewers to sign Guerra?
While the Brewers bullpen looks plenty well stocked now, there may be some openings in a couple weeks. As was mentioned above, there are arbitration-eligible relievers such as Alex Claudio and Corey Knebel who could be candidates to be non-tendered by next week’s deadline.
There’s also the curious case of Josh Hader. There have been rumors aplenty speculating about whether he will get moved by the Brewers this offseason. If that happens, the domino effect of Brewer relievers jumping into new roles will create an opening somewhere in the bullpen.
Guerra was Mr. Reliable as a member of the Brewer bullpen in 2019. His 72 appearances were second most on the team that season but tops among right-handed relievers. Considering his skills don’t particularly seem to be declining, even at 35, and that Milwaukee can now sign him for lower than his projected $2.7MM to $3.3MM arbitration price, it’s a move that could make sense.
There are a few ex-Brewers out on the market who could have homecomings with the team next season. Guerra would probably be one of the more logical ones to consider signing.