CLEVELAND – Baseball is back and teams must pick up wherever they left off before the impasse began. So what does that mean for the Guardians?
Cleveland made a flurry of moves throughout November, including adding 11 prospects to the 40-man roster. But because they did not make many external transactions before their plans were put on pause, there’s still plenty left for the club to do to prepare for the 2022 season.
Let’s take a closer look at everything that happened in the early parts of the offseason, and what decisions are looming in the coming weeks:
What deals have already gotten done?
The Guardians weren’t too active before the lockout occurred, making just two minor moves in trading for Minor League righty Tobias Myers from Tampa Bay and signing free-agent backstop Sandy León.
Who was added to the 40-man roster?
Along with Myers, the Guardians also added the following 10 prospects: OF George Valera, SS José Tena, LHP Konnor Pilkington, OF Steven Kwan, C Bryan Lavastida, SS Richie Palacios, 3B Jhonkensy Noel, SS Brayan Rocchio, SS Tyler Freeman and RHP Cody Morris.
Who have they already parted ways with?
In order to clear the amount of space needed for all their prospects, the Guardians designedated seven players for assignment, including OF Daniel Johnson (outrighted to Triple-A), OF Harold Ramirez (traded to the Cubs), RHP JC Mejía (traded to the Brewers), LHP Scott Moss (claimed off waivers by the Phillies), RHP Kyle Nelson (claimed off waivers by the D-backs), RHP Justin Garza (outrighted to Triple-A) and LHP Alex Young (outrighted to Triple-A ).
Earlier in the offseason, the club had already determined to designate relievers Nick Wittgren and Cam Hill for assignment – both of whom elected free agency.
What are the biggest remaining needs and who might they target to fill these holes?
The No. 1 need for the Guardians is filling their corner outfield spots. The team could also use some extra catching depth, help at first base and some relief pitching. But it’s clear the top priority is sorting out the outfield and finding pieces who could bring a life to the offense.
Cleveland finally has its everyday center fielder in Myles Straw, and now it needs to find regulars to join him. Because of the plethora of middle infielders on the 40-man roster, it’d probably make the most sense to find an outfielder via trade. Someone like Cincinnati’s Jesse Winker – who’s entering his second year of arbitration and hit .305 with a .949 OPS in an injury-shortened 2021 – would be a strong addition to the lineup but may require a heftier return. Players like Lourdes Gurriel Jr. from Toronto or Austin Meadows from Tampa Bay could end up being more attainable options.
Which of their free agents have already signed elsewhere?
The only two free agents who have signed elsewhere are catcher Roberto Pérez, who joined the Pirates, and Hill, who signed a Minor League deal with the White Sox in November. Blake Parker, Wilson Ramos, Bryan Shaw, Ryan Lavarnway and Wittgren are still on the market.
Might there be a reunion with any of their remaining free agents?
The only two chances for a reunion with any of the Guardians’ current free agents would be Wittgren or Shaw, but both would have to be willing to sign a small contract (if not, a Minor League deal). Both options seem unlikely at this point.
Are there any players they are looking to trade?
The abundance of middle infielders in their farm system gives them trade pieces to acquire offensive help. On the 40-man roster alone, Cleveland boasts 10 guys who play either shortstop or second base (or both), including Amed Rosario, whose trade value certainly increased after an impressive ’21 season.
The club may be able to tap into its starting pitching depth, if needed. After experiencing a shortage of starting pitching for the first time in a while in 2021, the Guardians have regained their greatest strength. Aside from the starting five in Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, Triston McKenzie and Cal Quantrill, the team has a more experienced Eli Morgan and plenty of optimism in other young arms like Morris. That could give Cleveland the freedom to explore offers on a pitcher like Plesac, but a trade involving him would require a quality return.
However, the overwhelming abundance of middle infielders makes it more likely for at least one of them to be moved before a starter would be traded.
What outstanding arbitration cases are on the docket?
The Guardians still have to sign all seven of their arbitration-eligible players, including Bieber, Quantrill, Franmil Reyes, Rosario, Austin Hedges, Josh Naylor and Bradley Zimmer.
How many open spots are there on the 40-man roster?