Milwaukee Brewers’ Junior Guerra on Yankees’ Radar?

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Junior Guerra has drawn interest this offseason from a number of clubs. Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Junior Guerra has drawn interest this offseason from a number of clubs. Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Milwaukee Brewers continue their rebuild, the 31-year-old hurler remains a high risk, high reward asset – and a good fit for the New York Yankees.

The idea of value and selling at a one’s peak remains a vital component to the Milwaukee Brewers‘ efforts.

Starting pitcher Junior Guerra may be the toughest one to gauge. His phenomenal 2016 rookie year is offset by his age, lack of previous MLB success, and the concern of injury.

However, since he basically came out of nowhere and cost nothing off the waiver wire, Brewers’ GM David Stearns is playing with house money. Will he cash in those chips on Guerra?

The New York Yankees, who finished 84-78 in 2016, stayed in the hunt despite sub-par starting pitching. In most categories, advanced and standard, their starters were middle of the road – at best.

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New York’s rotation ranked 19th in ERA (4.44), 16th in FIP (4.40) and 16th in fWAR (11.8).

On the flip side, Guerra put up a stellar campaign in his first full season. He finished the year with a 2.81 ERA, 3.71 FIP and a 2.5 fWAR.

His fWAR ranked fourth on the Brewers behind Ryan Braun (3.2), Jonathan Villar (3.0) and Jonathan Lucroy (2.9).

Back to the Yankees, if they stand pat, it would mean relying on a number of bounce back years, some inexperienced arms, and the continued resurgence of former Brewer CC Sabathia.

While Sabathia was a nice little comeback story after rehabbing for alcohol abuse (3.91 ERA), to expect another step forward at 36 years old would be a stretch.

New York traded stud relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman at last year’s deadline, but then re-signed the latter. The Yankees certainly improved their farm system with those deals, adding further to their a highly-ranked group.

However, despite the wealth of young talent, New York isn’t going into a rebuilding phase.

Chapman’s five-year, $86 million contract – a record for closers – signals the Yankees are pushing ahead next season. If they truly want to compete in the AL East, their starting pitching definitely needs a boost.

New York is rumored to covet Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox. However, they’re unwilling to give up too much of their highly-ranked assets.

That’s where Guerra becomes a valuable piece. He wouldn’t command a lot, resulting in a tempered return the Yankees can comfortably handle.

An established starter like Quintana, however, would likely cost multiple top-100 prospects, including one of their two frontline guys. Chicago would probably need another one of New York’s prospects in the 10-15 range.

There would be some risk to Yankees in making a deal for Guerra, but not nearly as much. New York is a franchise that can afford a mistake if they’re only losing one of their best prospects.

Should New York make a blockbuster swap with the White Sox, Quintana must pan out as a near-ace to justify the lost future production.

If Guerra falters, he costs little in salary and you can move on with little damage to the farm system. If he continues to shine, you’re a threat for the division crown.

The questions become, what are the Yankees willing to exchange and what are the Milwaukee Brewers looking to acquire?

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Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Junior Guerra surprised many with a stellar 2016. Can Stearns turn him into a big prospect? Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Depending on where you look, New York has six or seven of the league’s top-100 prospects. For Guerra, the Brewers could net a lower-ranked player from among that group, along with a lesser talent from single or double-A.

A vast majority of the Yankees’ top prospects are position players. Their top guys – Clint Frazier (OF), Gleyber Torres (SS) and Jorge Mateo (SS/2B) – would be too much for Guerra.

The next tier includes outfielders Aaron Judge and Blake Rutherford. Judge is a big corner outfielder with huge power potential and a strong arm. He’s also 24 years old already.

Rutherford is a 19-year-old left-handed hitter with upside in his offensive game. He looks more like an all-around “safe bet” with strong potential as he matures.

But do the Milwaukee Brewers want to add another outfielder to their logjam of skilled players in the system? It seems to makes sense to look at another arm. New York can oblige there as well.

The Yankees’ top hurler is Justus Sheffield, who they acquired from the Cleveland Indians in the Miller trade. Sheffield sits in the top-100 in MLB with many scouts pegging him as a guaranteed mid-rotation starter, if not better.

A southpaw, Sheffield is on the shorter end of the tape at less then six feet tall. He has a quality three-pitch repertoire with good downward action and a fastball in the 92-94 MPH range.

If Sheffield is too much for the Yankees to part with, they have a few right-handed pitchers with intriguing upside.

Domingo Acevedo is a six-foot, seven-inch beast throwing in the upper-90s. If he can harness his secondary pitches, he could be a top of the rotation talent. If not, Acevedo can easily become an elite closer.

James Kaprielian has shown flashes of brilliance in mixing his pitches. He keeps his fastball in the mid-90s and generally shows good command. Kaprielian projects as a mid-rotation arm as well.

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Dillon Tate is the third guy that has the look of a future Major League starter. He’s been inconsistent in his early career, but many think he has the physical tools to develop into something special.

Tate has the ability to regularly sit in the mid-90s and he has been graded to have a 60 slider (on a scale of 20-80). Commanding a third pitch will be the key for Tate if he wants to be in somebody’s rotation.

All in all, any deal involving Guerra to the Yankees is pure speculation on the return for the Milwaukee Brewers.

New York is certainly a fit, both in need and in available prospects to send back. Are the two clubs on the same page? Time will tell.

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Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman may not feel comfortable swinging a trade at this time due to Guerra’s light track record. But if Guerra is still in Milwaukee come July, and continues to have success, he’ll have plenty of suitors.