Matt Guerrier currently projects as a Type A free agent under the Elias Rankings. When he hits free agency after the season, the Twins will have a major decision to make: is Guerrier worth an offer of arbitration? Depending on what GM Bill Smith does, Guerrier will have his own a choice to make and so will baseball's other teams. Here's a breakdown of the three possible decisions, starting with the Twins:
The Twins' Decision
If Guerrier maintains his Type A status, he will have the potential to bring the Twins two top picks in the 2011 draft. For that to happen, Guerrier would have to turn arbitration down and sign with another club.
The right-hander has led the league in appearances each of the past two seasons and has a 2.89 ERA this year with 6.0 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. It's another solid season for the 32-year-old Ohio native, and he'd fit well in many bullpens.
Guerrier is making just 3.15MM in 2010 and hasn't had an exceptional career before this point, so he would presumably make something like $4MM if he accepts arbitration. The Twins have already committed $72MM to their 2011 payroll and that figure doesn't include Matt Capps' expected raise through arbitration. The Twins, who will pay Joe Nathan $11.25MM next year, may hesitate to commit even $4MM to Guerrier, who's good, but not irreplaceable. They could decide not to offer arbitration and forgo the potential draft picks, but if they do offer arb, Guerrier will have to make a decision of his own.
If the Twins offer arbitration, Guerrier and his agent would have to decide whether to accept the offer, like Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Soriano did last year, or turn it down. Some relievers, like Juan Cruz, have had trouble finding jobs after turning down arb because of their Type A status, so Guerrier could simply accept, since he's not a household name. He and his agent will have from December 1st to December 7th to decide.
However, Jose Valverde, Billy Wagner and Mike Gonzalez all found jobs last winter even though the teams that signed them had to give up compensation picks to do so. Those three relievers all had lower ERAs and higher strikeout rates last year than Guerrier has in 2010. However, Guerrier has a lower walk rate than any of those three pitchers had a year ago.
He and his representatives would have to decide whether clubs consider Guerrier an impact reliever who's worth surrendering a top pick for. It seems quite unlikely that Guerrier would turn down arbitration if the Twins offer it, but teams will have to make a decision if Guerrier turns down arb.
Other Teams' Decision
Is Guerrier worth surrendering a first round pick for? To his credit, he has posted ERAs below 3.00 in three of the past four seasons, has an excellent slider and was durable enough to lead the league in appearances in 2008-09. Still, his career-low homer rate is keeping his ERA artificially low, he doesn't strike tons of batters out and reliever performance can be volatile. I'd be surprised if a front office in baseball believed that Guerrier was worth surrendering a first-round pick for.
However, they wouldn't necessarily have to. Teams that sign multiple Type A free agents only give one first rounder away, naturally. Guerrier would only cost a second or third-rounder for clubs that are especially aggressive in free agency, so those teams could have stronger interest.
If the Twins feel they can afford to have three well-paid relievers in their 'pen, offering Guerrier arb wouldn't hurt. After all, they'd have the chance to obtain a supplementary first round pick and another pick if he signs elsewhere. Guerrier's representatives would likely advise him to accept arb, since there's no guarantee that rival clubs would have interest. If Guerrier turns arb down, he could be in for a Juan Cruz-esque job search unless a team that signs multiple Type A free agents makes him an offer.