Is Junior Guerra trade bait?

The trade market for starting pitchers is relatively weak this season. There’s really no other way to put it. Very few “ace-like” pitchers will be available, if any at all. When teams trade for a starter just before the deadline, the intention is for that hurler to pitch for them in the playoffs, not just to pitch them into the playoffs. Unfortunately for postseason-hopeful teams, there’s not many playoff pitchers out there, even though the demand is substantial.

MLB Trade Rumors recently released a list of 40 pitchers that teams could pursue, but a good majority of them are either at best average pitchers or have too pricey of contracts, safe for a few like the entire Rays’ rotation, Drew Pomeranz and Julio Teheran.

But among the 40 that made the list, Milwaukee Brewers’ rookie Junior Guerra was nowhere to be found. And that’s what prompted me to write this post, because Guerra should absolutely be considered trade bait.

After spending essentially his entire career with the minors, Guerra has burst onto the scene as a Brewer. He’s made 13 starts and accumulated a higher WAR (1.5) than any other Brewers’ starter. Guerra can also brag about having the lowest ERA (3.06), FIP (3.87) and K% (22%). Needless to say, he’s been one of the few and unexpected bright spots on a team that sits near the bottom of its division.

Guerra is under team control for another five seasons after 2016 finishes up, and doesn’t hit arbitration until 2019. Granted, his age of 31 isn’t exactly a plus, but his arm doesn’t have as much wear and tear on it as, say, a major-league pitcher who’s been in the bigs since age 22. Besides, he’s most likely going to be a cheap player who’s under team control for the duration of his career, and that’s the important part.

If a team shows enough interest in Guerra, expect David Stearns to pull the trigger. The Brewers don’t have much of a need for an aging pitcher when their sole focus is acquiring young talent. However, I don’t believe Stearns will trade Guerra just to trade him. That’s not his style. So if Stearns isn’t satisfied with the return, he’s going to hold on to him and hope his stock rises a bit more in 2017 as a starter and then try to move him. It would be a risky move, but it might behoove the Brewers in the end.

Guerra looks like a playoff pitcher from what he showed in the first half of the season. His FIP and xFIP tells us to expect some regression, but it could be that he’s just peripheral-beater. Watch out for teams like the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals to make a play for him.

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