The Twins agreed to terms with reliever Matt Guerrier, settling on a one-year, $1.475 contract. But as Joe Christensen pointed out, the Twins were attempting to reach a multi-year agreement with Guerrier. Anything more than the one season is an unnecessary commitment of future finances: Guerrier, who will be 31-years-old in August, is under control by the Minnesota Twins through 2010 and has a lot to prove. Opponents owned him in the final two months of 2008, swatting six home runs in 19.2 innings of work. His 0-5 record and 10.07 ERA in August and September hardly inspired confidence in the reliever. Why commit anything more?
Including being grossly ineffective the second-half of the season, Guerrier is also a likely injury candidate. Guerrier has been one of the most overworked relievers in the game the past two years. Though his 149 appearances didn’t qualify him as the most-used reliever – the Nationals’ Saul Rivera was used over 161 times in 2007 and 2008 – his 164 innings led to 1.10 innings per outing average over the past two seasons, a significant amount of work. This is on par with the experience of Scott Proctor. The 31-year-old Proctor was run out to the mound while with the Yankees 83 times in 2006 to throw 102.1 innings. In 2007, Proctor split the year between New York and the Dodgers and was once again trotted out 83 times but threw 86 innings total. After 163 appearances and 188 innings (1.15 Inn/App), Proctor started 2008 ineffective, throwing 31.2 innings with a 6.82 ERA as opponents slugged .504 off of him, and complained about pain in his arm. The righty spent 60 days on the DL in 2008 and witnessed his velocity drop (from 94.4 in 2006 to 92.8 last season) and control wane (2.9 BB/9 in 2006 to 5.59 BB/9 last year). This offseason, the Florida Marlins obtained Proctor for $750,000.
Like Proctor, Guerrier saw his command fail him too -- as evident by his BB/9 inflating from 2.15 in 2007 to 4.36 last year -- but Guerrier’s numbers show promise that his career could head in a different direction than Proctor’s. Guerrier’s velocity stayed relatively the same (91.6 in 2007 and 91.4 in 2008), dispelling any immediate concerns of pitching in pain. As I highlighted last month, Guerrier still has a very effective assortment of breaking pitches. His slider is especially devastating, reflective in his .423 WHIFF average, and his strikeout rate has remained steady at 6.96 K/9. Furthermore, Guerrier’s BABIP of .315 was significantly higher than both his career average of .291 and the league’s average of .295. As an indicator of luck, Guerrier should see his BABIP regress closer to the league average in 2009.
If the Twins manage to trim off 15-20 appearances in 2009, Guerrier’s likelihood of having a solid season increases. Through his first 55 games in 2007, Guerrier held a 1.96 ERA, 49/15 K/BB ratio and an opponent average of .202. In his first 50 games in 2008, Guerrier had a 3.23 ERA, a 44/23 K/BB ratio and an opponent average of .242. Space out 50-60 appearances in lower leverage situations and he is likely to replicate his early season success from April until September. If he responds well in these appearances, the Twins and Guerrier will once again exchange figures and the front office can look to secure Guerrier’s first season of free agent eligibility. If he does not respond well to the lighter work load or it does surface that Guerrier has a tired arm, the Twins now have the option of replacing him in 2010 with several internal candidates at a less expensive rate.
Either way Guerrier’s 2009 season plays out, in the end, avoiding signing him to a multi-year contract was a smart move.