MILWAUKEE -- Though Brewers right-hander Junior Guerra did not appear on any ballots when the Baseball Writers' Association of America unveiled its National League Rookie of the Year Award results on Monday, it offered a timely reminder of just how good Guerra was as a 31-year-old rookie in 2016 and how valuable he could be if the Brewers opt to trade him this offseason.
Guerra, an October 2015 waiver claim who was David Stearns' first acquisition as Brewers general manager, didn't even compete for Milwaukee's starting rotation in Spring Training. But he began the season in a starting role at Triple-A Colorado Springs, was promoted to the Majors in early May after Taylor Jungmann faltered and thrived the rest of the season, finishing with the best ERA (2.81), ERA+ (152) and WHIP (1.13) of any Brewers starter.
Guerra's ERA ranked seventh among Major Leaguers who pitched at least 120 innings, and his WHIP was 19th, just ahead of Maeda, who made 32 regular-season starts to Guerra's 20.
Guerra logged 121 2/3 innings, missing much of August with a sore elbow but returning for three starts in September before the Brewers shut him down as a precaution.
"This was a surprise," manager Craig Counsell said of Guerra's season. "You claim somebody off waivers and you're just hoping for the best, and he's been a great surprise, to his credit."
As expected, Guerra isn't pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League this year. Stearns wrote in an email that, "We've been in contact with Junior and his representatives and at this point, all agree that resting after a long season and getting ready for Spring Training is the best route."
The Brewers currently have at least six Major League starting pitchers: Guerra, Zach Davies, Jimmy Nelson, Wily Peralta, Matt Garza and Chase Anderson. Jungmann will vie to rejoin that group next year, and top pitching prospect Josh Hader will be added to the 40-man roster by week's end after finishing last season at Triple-A.
Considering the undistinguished crop of free agent starting pitchers -- it grew thinner on Monday, when Jeremy Hellickson accepted a qualifying offer from the Phillies -- Guerra's name could come up in trade talks.
Why would a rebuilding team like the Brewers part with a productive player who has five years of remaining club control? For starters, because they would be striking while his value is highest, in a market thin at that position. Also, he will turn 32 in January, and Guerra would be approaching or into his mid-30s by the time the Brewers return to postseason contention.
Stearns has not specifically addressed Guerra, saying only that he has received interest from rival teams on a number of Brewers players during last week's General Managers Meetings in Arizona.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.