On Sunday the Los Angeles Dodgers designated RHP Matt Guerrier for assignment and given the return he’s provided them on their investment, it’s not hard to see why. Of course before he was a Dodger, he was a rock steady* presence in the Twins bullpen for six full seasons and change and that’s the part of the story we care most about.
*As rock steady as a reliever can be anyway given their up and down nature.
Hindsight will bear out that Guerrier is one of the many player development success stories the Twins organization has on their resume from the 2000s.
The former Kent State hurler was a 10th round selection of the Chicago White Sox in the 1999 draft and put together three strong minor league seasons for the Southsiders (two as a closer and one as a starter). Then he was shipped to Pittsburgh right before the start of the 2002 season (March 27th) in exchange for lefty reliever Damaso Marte and OF/2B Ruddy Yan. Marte, for the record, was great for one season and above average another three seasons in Chicago. Yan on the other hand did very little, was out of affiliated ball by 2007 and is still kicking around in the Independent Atlantic League. The White Sox won that particular trade thanks in part to Marte’s four seasons and also thanks to Guerrier’s two relatively mediocre seasons pitching in Triple-A Nashville’s rotation.
Based on those mediocre seasons, he was placed on waivers following the 2003 season and the Twins shrewdly snapped him up and placed him in Triple-A Rochester where he made 23 starts with a 3.19 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 97-25 SO-to-BB in 144.0 IP. Guerrier made his major league debut in June of 2004 and was on the big league roster three separate times the rest of the season. He was 25 years old at the time.
Shifted to a relief role to start the 2005, he made the Opening Day roster and kicked off a run of six straight seasons in Minnesota’s bullpen with at least 69.0 innings pitched per year. In all but one of those years (2008) Matt Guerrier was a well above average major league reliever peaking in 2007 and 2009 with an ERA plus of 183 and 186 respectively.
Matt Guerrier threw 472.0 innings for the Twins with a 3.38 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 2.11 SO/BB and ERA+ of 129. For his services the team paid out a healthy $6.64 million dollars in salary – not counting what he made while up with the parent club in 2004. He was still effective in his final season with Minnesota – his ERA+ in 2010 was right on his 129 career mark, but they knew better than anyone of the stress and mileage accumulated on his arm. That mileage included four straight seasons of 70+ appearances in Minnesota and in 2008 (76) and 2009 (79) he led the American League in that category.
Undeterred the Dodgers, and they weren’t the only one interested in his services, gave him a 3-year, $12 million contract in December following the 2010 season. Since that time he’s been a below average pitcher (ERA+ 88) in 110.1 innings pitched and missed most of 2012 (only 19.0 IP – with 5.0 of those in the minors) due to injury.
The Twins deserve a ton of credit for:
1) Claiming him off waivers
2) Recognizing that despite success as a starter in Triple-A under their tutelage, his future was brightest if he was pitching in a major league bullpen
3) Letting him walk as a free agent after the 2010 season at age 32
It’s been two days now and Guerrier is still in DFA limbo but there are rumblings he could be a piece in a deal that would send him to the Cubs with Carlos Marmol heading to the Dodgers. No matter what happens, there is very little doubt that the Minnesota Twins got the best portion of his major league career.
Other Guerrier related notes:
The Twins and White Sox are not the only two teams in the AL Central to have ties to Guerrier. While he never played for or spent a day in the organization, the Kansas City Royals selected him in the 33rd round of the 1996 draft out of high school. Obviously they were unable to sign him and he went to college.
Guerrier appeared in three postseason series with the Twins (2006, 2009, 2010) and while they lost all five of the games he pitched in, he allowed just one hit in 4.2 innings of work with 4 strikeouts and a walk.
For another Guerrier-based article, check out Edward Thoma’s piece on Baseball Outsider.