As Jack covered earlier in the week, the Diamondbacks have some tricky decisions coming up this winter. The financial landscape in 2021 is going to be difficult for many teams, with revenue this year slashed to a fraction of normal levels. While the free-agent market this winter will likely reflect the new, harsher climate, there will be no discounts on previously signed contracts. This means less room for discretionary spending.
The first batch of such choices will take place shortly after the World Series, when teams have to exercise player options. For Arizona, there are three such candidates. I figured it might be worthwhile to discuss each of these in more detail, and see what the SnakePit consensus is in regard to each player. We'll go through them in alphabetical order, so begin with one of the most active arms in the Diamondbacks bullpen this year.
- Age on Opening Day 2021: 36
- 2020 salary: $2.55 million
- 2020 performance: 23.2 IP, 3.04 ERA, 21:15 K:BB, 4.12 FIP, 0.6 bWAR
- 2021 option: $3.5 million [per USA Today]
- 2021 buyout: $100K
Guerra's journey to Arizona was long and tortuous, especially after he was cut by the Mets following a failed drug-test in 2009. Junior then spent five seasons out of affiliated baseball, pitching in Italy, Mexico and indy ball. He didn’t reach the big leagues until fourteen years after he was originally signed by the Braves, in 2001. As a catcher... But he still became the Brewers' Opening Day starter in 2017, following a strong campaign the previous year, going 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA. A forearm injury in July 2018 led to him moving to the bullpen, but he was a somewhat surprising non-tender by the Brewers last December. He signed with the Diamondbacks less than a week later.
Guerra’s season didn't get off to the best of starts, the pitcher testing positive for COVID-19 in late June. Fortunately, it only delayed his participation in summer camp by a few days, and appeared to have no lasting impact. Once the season started, he became a regular tool for Torey Lovullo. Just Stefan Crichton appeared more often for the 2020 Diamondbacks than Guerra's 25 times. Junior was great in the early going, allowing one hit in his first eight innings of work. There was then a bit of a rough patch, giving up five runs over 2.1 frames. But Guerra rebounded, with a 2.03 ERA in his final 13.1 innings.
He was probably a bit lucky to end with a 3.04 ERA. His strikeout to walk ratio was an unimpressive 21:15, and Guerra was helped by a low .258 BABIP. He was also very good with runners in scoring position, holding batters to a .152 average. Though, again, he walked more hitters (10) than he struck out (9) in that situation. The question of whether they think he can reproduce the solid ERA posted this year, will likely determine the team's decision. It is considerably lower than Guerra's career figure (3.77) and was the lowest number since his rookie season. However, he has generally been more effective out of the 'pen (3.42 career ERA).
There are certainly vacancies for 2021, after the departures of Andrew Chafin and Archie Bradley, and it’s not currently shaping up as a bullpen with much experience. Presuming Hector Rondon isn’t coming back (and that will be one of the shorter articles in this series!), if Guerra isn’t retained, then right now Stefan Crichton, currently 28, would probably be the venerable old man of the Diamondbacks bullpen next year. However, the counterpoint is the potential “bargains” available on the free-agent market this winter, as teams’ purse-strings tighten. The price for a mid-range, non-closer reliever of similar experience may well end up being less than the cost of Guerra’s option.
Should we exercise Junior Guerra’s 2021 option?
This poll is closed