Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Brewers pitcher Junior Guerra was told by his agent that his team was granted an extra option because he didn’t have enough full minor league seasons under his belt. For the uninitiated, an option allows a team to send a player down to and back up from the minor leagues as many times as they want in a year. Most teams have three “option years” for players on the 40-man roster, but in Guerra’s case, sometimes it’s four.
Guerra, 33, is a bit of an oddity because he debuted in the majors in 2015 at the age of 30. His timeline before that:
Debuted in the minors in 2006 in the Braves’ organization, released the following March
Signed by the Mets in October 2007, club released him in June 2009 after he failed a drug test
Bounced around in the international American Association as well as foreign baseball leagues from the second half of 2009 to 2014
Signed by the White Sox in October 2014, debuts in the majors in 2015
Claimed off waivers by the Brewers from the White Sox in October 2015
As a result of all of that, Guerra has 207 2/3 innings in the minors across parts of five seasons. So that’s the justification for giving the Brewers an extra option year.
Guerra doesn’t become arbitration-eligible until after this season and he won’t hit free agency until after the 2022 season, so his freedom within Major League Baseball is already limited. And now the Brewers have the luxury of controlling him even more with an extra option year.
The MLBPA, which is already gearing up for a fight with the owners, should take Guerra’s situation to heart. They should even fight on his behalf specifically. Guerra has only so many years left to make money and that is hampered by a system designed for teams to control players in their late teens and early 20’s. It’s an unfair system for players in general, but it’s really bad for older players who break through late in their careers like Guerra. The overarching issue is that minor leaguers aren’t compensated fairly — in part because the union has neglected to include them — and because teams are granted six years of control once minor leaguers reach the majors.
It’s a really crummy situation for Guerra, but one potential bright side is that it may be the catalyst the union needs to fight to take down some of these unjust systems within baseball.