Matt Guerrier Should Probably be the Closer

July 10, 2010: Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Matt Guerrier (54) during the MLB baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan.

It’s not going to happen now that the Twins have acquired Matt Capps, but it occurred to me while watching Guerrier pitch the ninth against the Mariners today, he really should be closing games. It’s not so much that he’s a better pitcher than either Jon Rauch or Matt Capps, in fact, the three are pretty similar:

Guerrier: 2.96 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 3.69 tERA, 2.07 K/BB

Rauch: 3.05 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 3.08 tERA, 3.00 K/BB

Capps: 2.68 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 3.45 tERA, 4.33 K/BB

The reason Guerrier should be closing has a lot more to do with his contract status than his stats. Matt Guerrier currently projects to be a type A free agent, and while most fans are salivating over the first-round draft picks the Twins will snag when he signs elsewhere, I’m not so sure that’s going to happen. There will be a plethora of middle relievers on the market this season, with Rafael Soriano, Matt Thornton, Darren Oliver, Frank Francisco, Scott Downs, Dan Wheeler, Jason Frasor, Billy Wagner, Arthur Rhodes, and Pedro Feliciano available, and those are just the projected Type A free agents. Odds are pretty good that most of these relievers will not be offered arbitration (and thus, the team that signs them won’t have to sacrifice any draft picks), making them much more attractive for teams in search of bullpen help. Matt Guerrier isn’t significantly better than any of these other relievers, and if the Twins offer him arbitration, he will probably have to accept.

However, a lot of teams still overvalue the save statistic and are willing to overpay for closers who can rack up saves, regardless whether these closers they are actually elite relievers or not. Fernando Rodney is a prime example of a mediocre reliever who nonetheless earned a 2-year, $11 million contract (and snagged a supplemental #1 pick for Detroit) simply because he’s a closer. Jose Valverde and Billy Wagner are also good examples of teams willing to overpay and sacrifice draft picks for closers, though, in all fairness, Wagner can still be considered an elite reliever.

The Twins are missing out on a golden opportunity to increase Matt Guerrier’s value on the free agent market. He could certainly serve as closer just as easily as Jon Rauch (who projects to be a Type B free agent) or Matt Capps (who is still under team control for one more season). If he were to successfully close out games in the postseason, his value would increase even more. The supplemental first-round draft pick he’d snag would help ease the sting of trading away Wilson Ramos for a middle reliever.

Erin is a contributing writer for Twinkie Talk. You can follow her inane ramblings on Twitter, or email her at erinm725 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Tags: Billy Wagner Fernando Rodney Jason Frasor Jon Rauch Jose Valverde Mariano Rivera Matt Capps Matt Guerrier Matt Thornton Scott Downs

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