Junior Guerra currently holds a 3.13 DRA. Among starting pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched, that ranks 19th in all of baseball. If we consider the idea that since there are 30 teams there are 30 “Aces” (Yes, some of you will disagree with this classification), Junior Guerra is performing like an “Ace”. This is no longer a joke.
Very few people if any saw this coming. Before this season, very few people had ever heard of Guerra. That’s because from 2008-2014 Guerra was out of affiliated baseball. Usually, if this happens the player is never heard from again. But, in 2014 the White Sox signed Guerra to a minor league contract and Guerra got a cup of coffee in 2015. The Brewers then claimed the 31-year-old right-hander off waivers. It was David Stearns’s first move as a general manager.
It’ll henceforth become easy to credit Stearns and the Brewers for this pickup. Especially if this performance continues. But, do the Brewers deserve credit for Guerra?
On a simple level, yes the Brewers do deserve credit, but they don’t deserve credit for Guerra. The Brewers deserve credit for their process and Guerra is merely a by-product of that process.
Rebuilding can be a complicated process. A number of people associate rebuilding with the draft or the demise of the current roster. We so often think of rebuilding as the process of trading the remaining valuable pieces of a bad and flawed team in order to acquire younger talent. The plan is to form the new core of the team through these moves.
But rebuilding can have many layers especially if it’s done properly. One of the advantages of rebuilding is that it affords the team the opportunity to give players a chance. If Guerra was on a winning team, with heavy expectations, he may have never gotten his chance. Fortunately for Guerra, the Brewers had little plan of being competitive this season. This allowed Stearns to make a number of low risk and potentially high rewarding acquisitions. These acquisitions include players such as Ramon Flores, Rymer Liriano, Will Middlebrooks, Jonathan Villar, Chris Carter, and more. (The full list of Brewers acquisitions can be found here).
These are all flawed players. If they weren’t then the Brewers wouldn’t have been able to simply snag them for almost no cost. But, they were flawed players with some potential, which is why the Brewers decided to snag them in the first place.
The Brewers were going to have a lot of open spots in spring training, and throughout the season which allowed them to give these players a longer look. This gave them time to develop and see if they actually have any worthwhile talent. The Brewers, for example aren’t like the current Red Sox, who need players to perform if they want to make the playoffs. The Brewers had the ability to let players struggle and fail at the major league level. That’s a “luxury” contending teams don’t have.
Many of these moves obviously didn’t pan out, but some are already starting to show fruition. Basically, if you throw enough dirt at the wall, some of it is bound to stick.
That’s what the Brewers did. They threw, and threw, and kept throwing dirt, and some of it is sticking. Some of it is sticking better than any of us could have ever imagined.
If the Brewers, for example, didn’t think it would be worthwhile to invest in players such as Jonathan Villar, Chris Carter, Aaron Hill, and Junior Guerra, then those players would have never been found. These players are now all producing good value at the major league level, and if nothing else, they can become good trade pieces for this coming trade deadline, or if the Brewers are high enough on them, they could become part of the rebuilding core. These are the type of moves that speed up the rebuild.
The only person who truly deserves credit for Junior Guerra is Junior Guerra. You don’t go from washed up, out of the league nobody to a dominant major league pitcher by being dogmatic. Guerra had to work hard to get where he is today. Sure, there might have been a scout that was high on him, but to think that he would become one of the more productive pitchers in baseball, for any stretch, would have been a stretch.
At the end of the day, Guerra deserves all the credit in the world for his performance. The Brewers deserve credit for having the mindset that would allow Guerra to have an opportunity.