We now enter in the postseason for 14 teams, and the offseason for the Cleveland Guardians and for all other MLB teams. While we either wait on new gear to be released or try to wrap our minds around a new team name, we should also all hope that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement can be negotiated between MLB owners and players without a lockout, or, at least, an extended lockout. If the negotiations drag out, than all of the potential deals and signings I discuss below will be similarly delayed and complicated. But, let’s hope for the best!
The following post is my attempt to sort out a possible Cleveland Guardians 2022 roster based on what I think the team will most likely do, with a little bit of what I HOPE they will do mixed in.
2022 Cleveland Guardians Opening Day Starting Lineup:
Catcher – Free Agent/Trade Addition of Tucker Barnhart - Whether via trade or free agency, I think the team has to add a starting catcher to make sure that Hedges doesn’t play 4-5 games a week. Hedges’ bat is just not good enough. So, Barnhart seems like a good choice, more on him below.
First Baseman - Bobby Bradley - I think Bradley gets first look here at least until Josh Naylor is available in mid-May.
Second Baseman – Amed Rosario - I put Amed in about four different spots, before I decided they will probably try to make it work with him at second to start off the season. I also would not be surprised (or particularly disappointed) if the team trades him to a team who thinks he can play shortstop. Amed looks to be a solid 2-3 win player. I don’t think he offers much more than that, but we don’t have that at a lot of positions, currently, so you can’t just give him away without being sure that guys like Gimenez, Miller, Arias and Chang are ready to step in.
Shortstop – Andres Gimenez - With Gabriel Arias and Brayan Rocchio not far behind!
Third Baseman - Jose Ramirez - hopefully on a nice, long extension deal!
Left Fielder – Trade Acquisition of Ian Happ from Chicago Cubs (more on that below)
Center Fielder - Myles Straw - Nice to be able to know this position is covered, even if the bat isn't quite what we might hope, he makes up for it with speed and defense.
Right Fielder – Free Agent Signing of Tommy Pham (more on that below)
Designated Hitter - Franmil Reyes - Hopefully also gets a nice extension! And finds his form from early 2021, with less strikeouts and more walks.
Utility Infielder - Owen Miller - I’m a believer in the bat and think he can hold down any infield position as necessary.
Utility Infielder – Yu Chang - I’ve cut Chang from this team about a dozen times, but his glove has looked good enough that this recent hitting surge may just give him another opening day with the Guardians
Fourth Outfielder – Steven Kwan, OF – I go back and forth on which, if any, of our current lackluster group of outfielders is going to stick on the 2022 roster. Today, I’m going with Kwan making the ML roster and all four of Johnson, Zimmer, Mercado and Harold Ramirez getting DFA’d or traded. It wouldn’t surprise me if Zimmer, Mercado or Harold Ramirez make it… they just aren’t that good, so it doesn’t matter and I’m focusing on other positions. One or two of them will surely be with the club through the Rule 5 draft, and some of our Rule-5 eligible prospects then being traded for a piece like Happ or Barnhart may saddle us with their mediocrity for another year, and that’s fine.
Catcher - Austin Hedges – Hedges has been so bad offensively this season that I wonder if there is a chance the team declines his option. But, he has also been so elite defensively that I can’t imagine a team that clearly values that letting him go. So, whether he is retained on a renegotiated deal or if they exercise his option, I think Hedges is still here. And, as mentioned above, he MAY be the starter, at least, until Bryan Lavastida shows that he is ready at Triple-A.
Shane Bieber - Hopefully, also with a nice extension and a fully healthy shoulder
Aaron Civale - Heck, extend him, too!
Cal Quantrill – What an incredible year for Quantrill. Not sure why he was in the bullpen so long, but he was one of the best pitchers in the second half.
Triston McKenzie – Heckuva #4 starter. McKenzie had a dominant stretch, followed by three rough starts to end, but I’m still confident in his ability to be a quality starter.
Zach Plesac - Hopefully with an offseason chance to work out some control issues he has shown
RP – Free Agent addition of Craig Stammen, RHP (more on him below)
RP – Trade Acquisition Dylan Floro, RHP from Miami (more on Floro below)
RP – Francisco Perez, LHP – Perez has been solid outside of a rough situation he got placed in for his first appearance.
RP – Trevor Stephan, RHP – It has been great to see him make strides of late.
RP – Anthony Gose, LHP – I’m a believer. He looked incredible in the final two weeks he spent with the team.
RP – Nick Sandlin, RHP – Hopefully, he is healthy and ready to go. Sandlin is a big piece.
RP – James Karinchak, RHP – Count me among those who thinks he will figure it out. Looks like reliance on a sticky substance caused him to get lost, but there’s enough there for me to think he will find the ability to get strikeouts and avoid walks again.
RP – Emmanuel Clase, RHP – The one sure thing in our bullpen. But, when it’s all said and done, bullpens are probably the easiest things to fix if you are willing to use some of your starting pitcher depth. Hopefully, the Guardians will be willing to do that, and willing to expend some resources to add some veteran depth.
Eli Morgan RHP – The 6th starter to begin the year. He has really surprised me with some great outings against some good lineups. A good player to have on hand, but his home-run rate makes me want to keep him as a backup starter in the minors, ideally.
Josh Naylor 1B/OF - I'm still a believer in Naylor, but I'd guess he's not ready until mid-May. He had a rough year, but if he can just stop swinging (and hitting!) bad pitches, I think his offensive profile will work. The question is whether or not after his horrific ankle injury he can play in the outfield (not that he was a good outfielder before).
J.C. Mejia, RHP – I’m assuming Mejia gets 1 more option due to the pandemic and injuries. If so, give Mejia some Columbus reps in the bullpen, I say. If he doesn’t, he can replace Garza on the roster as far as I’m concerned.
Sam Hentges, LHP – I’m assuming Hentges also gets 1 more option year. He has shown enough in a bullpen role for me to want him to get some more time.
Gabriel Arias, SS – Knocking on the door of the majors at 21 years old in Triple-A this year, and hopefully ready to take over if Gimenez struggles. Arias is probably the starting shortstop for the Guardians at some point during the season, if only in replace of an injury.
Nolan Jones, 3B/OF – Jones had a very bad start to the year and was just starting to hit well for a good stretch when he suffered an ankle injury that resulted in surgery. His ankle injury complicates things, because I’d have said he would be trade bait, but now, he won’t be in games until probably the end of Spring Training. So, I’d think they would switch him to the outfield or first base. I still really like Jones, so I hope we get to see him with the Guardians by June and I like the fact that he isn’t as likely to get traded in the offseason.
Carlos Vargas RHP - Watch out for Vargas to be in the pen by the end of 2022. He has electric stuff, but is coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2021.
Rule 5 Adds:
Cody Morris RHP - Next in line after Morgan. He had a great year in Double and Triple A, and may be a good arm for the bullpen.
George Valera OF - Obvious add. Do we finally have a star outfielder in our minor league system? Bat-flips, at least, are A-grade.
Brayan Rocchio SS - I believe he is the best prospect in our system and that he will be our starting shortstop in Cleveland in 2023.
Tyler Freeman 2B – Amed may just be keeping second-base warm for Tyler for later in the year as Freeman recovers from shoulder surgery.
Bryan Lavastida C - Nice to see him force his way on to the 40-man. Lavastida may be a starting or backup catcher in Cleveland in 2022.
Joey Cantillo, LHP - Interesting to see so many LHP coming for Cleveland.
Konnor Pilkington, LHP – Also, see above.
Four names concern me here in terms of leaving them unprotected in the Rule 5 – Richie Palacios, Adam Scott, Jhonkensy Noel, and Jose Tena. I think Palcios gets either protected or traded. They'll find room for him by trading someone else, or they'll package him for a bat. I like Scott and his potential, but as a 25 year old at Triple-A, it’s likely not the end of the world if he is selected, as much as I’d like to keep him. Noel has insane numbers, and has shown the ability to play third, so I know many are worried that he will be selected. I think the amount of teams that have roster crunches make it unlikely that a guy whose most likely outcome is as a first baseman will be selected as a 20 year old who hasn’t played outside of High-A, but I am certainly not opposed to the Guardians rostering him. Perhaps trades will create a spot for him. Tena is a shortstop, so that’s a premium position that makes it more likely he’ll be picked in the Rule 5. But, he’s only 20 and JUST made it up to Double-A for Akron’s championship series… the team can likely protect him and then trade either him or another middle-infield prospect as needed.
On that note, please remember that since many free-agent or trade additions may be made after the Rule-5 draft, it’s possible the Guardians could protect players like Scott, Noel, and Tena and then deal players in order to fit new players on the roster. So, if you read this and you’re outraged I didn’t protect one or more of the four - no worries! There is probably space to do it, if the team wants to, as long as they then make a trade to create roster space later on.
So, that's 40 players everyone, 21 position players and 19 pitchers. I want to reiterate that this is an attempt to guess at the Opening Day 40, but I realize some of these players may have to be dealt to acquire Floro and Happ. I can’t really guess which players will be dealt, but depending on when they ARE dealt and how many are dealt, it may even open up spots for players like Johnson, Clement, Zimmer, etc. to stick on the roster, or, as I said above, more players to be protected from the Rule-5. But, given this current plan, let’s look at what has to happen to folks currently on the roster:
Bradley Zimmer – Trade or DFA – When he hits one, he hits it far. He can run and play defense. Ultimately, I don’t think that will be enough, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes it.
Harold Ramirez - Trade or DFA – Harold looked like a lock earlier in the year, but has fallen apart since July. He had a couple good games and then got hurt.
Daniel Johnson – Trade or DFA – If Johnson didn’t look so below-average in the field, I’d give him the nod over Zimmer. As it is, I think he’s the kind of guy who may get traded this November in a small deal. He also has a minor-league option left, so, it’s possible the team risks Kwan getting taken in the Rule-5 and keeps Johnson (they also could keep Johnson, anyway, because they can add free-agents or trade additions later on).
Oscar Mercado – Trade or DFA – As I noted above, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see 1-2 of these guys on the 2022 roster. And there are a variety of ways to make it happen. But, personally, I’d rather just move on from all four, so that’s the approach I’m taking here for the sake of this exercise.
Ernie Clement – Trade or DFA – I could see Clement taking the spot I gave Chang on the roster. I think I prefer Chang, even with all of his flaws, because Chang can probably hit a little more than Clement can. But, Clement’s glove looks great. I wonder if Clement could get through waivers after a DFA and stick with the team.
Wilson Ramos – Release – His injury was a sad ending to a nice, little career for the Buffalo.
Justin Garza - Release - 7.04 xERA says it all
Nick Wittgren – Release – Love the guy, but he looks washed.
Logan S. Allen - Trade or DFA – Also seems like a great person, but I think we have to move on from one of the Hentges, Mejia and Allen bunch. I won’t argue if the team picks to keep Allen and move on from Hentges, though.
Blake Parker – Release – Who knows? May come back in a minor-league deal, has had a nice little season, but shouldn’t be relied on to repeat it.
Bryan Shaw – Release – I loved the Shaw renaissance in April-May, but we don’t need a return in 2022. I wouldn’t rule out the franchise’s leader in relief appearances from returning, though, of course.
Alex Young – Release – I liked the idea of taking a look. But, we’re done here.
Cam Hill – DFA – Didn’t come back strong from the wrist injury.
Scott Moss – DFA – Not working out.
Kyle Nelson – DFA – See above.
Other notes: This is probably WAY too ambitious, and I should prepare myself to see some of these frustrating players return. But, I’m going to go a little bit with what I WANT to see. I wish Oscar Gonzalez would have got a look at the major league level before 2021 is over, but I don’t think a player with his K/BB rate is a viable major league starter. Gonzalez has crushed LHP in the minors, which makes me wonder if he could be that short-side of the platoon in Cleveland if given the chance. Instead, it looks like he most likely will sign a minor-league deal elsewhere, probably to compete for a DH job in the market that is likely to be there for those players when the universal DH becomes a reality. Also, Andruw Monasterio has put up a good season between Double-A and Triple-A, but I suspect he will sign elsewhere as a minor-league free agent after the year.
Now, let’s take a look at players who will be free agents or who may be available in trades (stats updated as of October 1st). wOBA is weighted-on-base percentage (anything close to .320 is average), fWAR is FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (anything over 0 is the number of wins a given-player is better than what we’d assume their Triple-A replacement would be). ZiPS is a projections systems’ numbers predicting what a given player will produce in 2022.
Possible Free Agent Adds: Age – wOBA and fWAR for 2021, (ZiPS for 2022):
(All ZiPS numbers provided below were projections made in the 2020 off-season. So, players who have made significant advances or declines will not see those reflected in their projected stats).
NOTE: I don’t think Kyle Schwarber is a good fit because he will be expensive and he is really a DH. Also, my first choice would be Kris Bryant, but the Guardians are not going to pay for him, so why bother discussing that?
Nick Castellanos (RH) – 29 - .392, 4 (.341, 1) – I believe he will opt-out and then Castellanos is the absolute top-of-the-line option I’ll put down as a remote possibility for Cleveland. I find it extremely unlikely that they will pay for the 3-4 year contract he will likely get, and considering that he’ll be opting out of a $16m one-year deal to be a free agent, I can’t see them paying for it. But, I supposed we could all be shocked. He certainly would change a lineup and provide endless opportunities for Castellanos homer jokes.
Michael Conforto (LH) – 28 – .318, 0.8 (.360 wOBA, 3.3 fWAR) - Maybe he looks for a 1-year pillow deal? Heck, I'd give him a 3-4 year deal, myself.
Chris Taylor (RH) – 31 - .337, 2.9 (.330, 2.1) – Taylor is solid at almost any position on the diamond except catcher and pitcher, which definitely makes him a Guardians-type target. However, that very versatility will price him slightly out of their price range, in my opinion. He is a solid bat with a solid glove, though, so I’d certainly welcome his signing if they could pull it off.
AJ Pollock (RH) – 34 – .378, 3.1 (.319, 0.8) - I've always loved Pollock, but he does have some injury history that probably makes signing him at 34 not ideal. But, his age also may make him someone who can give great production at a reasonable value.
Mark Canha (LH) – 33 – .335, 2.9 (.333, 2.3) - Seems like a very Guardians player, can play a lot of positions, and knows how to get on base.
Starling Marte (RH) – 33 – .362, 5.5 (.312, 1.2) - How long have I wanted Starling Marte in our lineup? At least three years, actually. Thanks for asking. What a year he is having! Hard to imagine Cleveland ponying up what it will take to sign him at 33.
Avisail Garcia (RH) 30 - .350, 3.1 (.317, 0.5) – Garcia is the kind of guy I’m surprised Cleveland hasn’t picked up at some point or another. A guy who is going to give you slightly above average production in the outfield at a reasonable cost. If the team doesn’t want to play in the Conforto/Canha/Pollock market, I’d bet on Garcia or Pham being the choice, for sure.
Andrew McCutcheon (RH) – 35 - .333, 1.1 (.317, 0.5) – Like others on this list, I’ve always wanted McCutcheon as a Guardian, but the time for that may be past. He is not a lineup-changing bat anymore. However, I am sure he does bring some intangibles to a clubhouse, and he is still going to get on base at a decent clip. He is the kind of one-year deal guy that may be worth a shot.
Tommy Pham (RH) – 34 – .318, 1.8 (.325, 1.5) – There is enough there for me to be interested in a one-year deal for Pham. He had a rough 2020 (who didn’t, really) and only slightly bounced back in 2021, but he has a .351 xwOBA and good peripherals. He also has a great eye at the plate and can maintain something around a 15% walk rate. If he can be had for a one MAYBE two year deal, I think he’s as good a bet as any.
Brian Goodwin (LH) – 31 - .306, 0.2 (.297, -0.2) – Goodwin is a platoon outfielder and I can’t see how he offers anything more than Zimmer or Daniel Johnson would at the position. And Zimmer and Johnson would be cheaper, so I can’t see how Goodwin ends up here except as a spring-training invite.
Possible Trade Targets: Age - ZiPS for 2022, (Numbers for 2021) Years of Team Control left:
Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh (Switch) – 27 – .381 wOBA, 5.4 fWAR(.314 wOBA, 1 fWAR) 2022-2025 – Reynolds is clearly at the top of most lists of potential outfield trade targets. However, he isn’t very good defensively, and I guess I’m not convinced the offensive prowess he is showing will last. So, he wouldn’t be my top choice, and I think he’ll be the most expensive to acquire (as he seems like a piece Pittsburgh can afford to hang onto while they rebuild).
Cedric Mullins, Baltimore (LH) – 27 – .377, 5.5 (.295, 1.2) 2023-2026 – Thanks to Jeff Ellis, I was pointed to a FanGraphs article about the changes Mullins has made to his swing based on analytical tools, so, his breakout seems like it might have some staying power. Hard not to drool over the prospect of him in left-field and in the top of the lineup, and he’s a decent fielder, also. But, admittedly, he is going to cost a LOT in a trade because he is a late-breakout, under cheap team control, and has had what was probably a career-year. If the Guardians get him, I am all for it. I just suspect they will go for cheaper options. Also, Baltimore has a great minor league system at this point… seems like they might hold on to some vets for a bit while the young guys start to come up rather than unload them for more prospects.
Jesse Winker, Cincinnati (LH) – 28 – .403, 3.2 (.357, 1.2) 2022-2023 - Rumored the team pursued him this deadline. This would be buying HIGH, which is unlikely, I suppose. But, man... tempting.
Mitch Haniger, Seattle (RH) – 31 – .339, 2.5 (.335, 1.8) 2022 - A rental at this point, seems unlikely, but if they did it, they could look at him as holding down the spot until the messianic arrival of Valera? Haniger certainly would dramatically change the look of the lineup for the better.
Teoscar Hernandez, Toronto (RH) – 29 – .368, 3.9 (.347, 1.6) 2022-2023 at $4.5M AAV. If you’re trading for Hernandez, you’re buying high. But, Toronto could use the pitching help, of which Cleveland has an abundance (however, as we have seen in 2021, that abundance can become a scarcity very quickly). Would Toronto move a hitter to gain a guy like Plesac, Morris, Logan T. Allen or (don’t shoot me) Quantrill? Obviously, if you move Quantrill, you’re getting more than Hernandez back – maybe a relief pitcher or a non-Rule 5-eligible decent prospect. I’m not saying I would do that, but that 120-130 wRC+ WOULD look very nice in the middle of our lineup.
Lourdes Gurriel, Toronto (RH) – 28 – .338, 1.7 (.332, 1.6) 2022-2024 at $3.1M AAV. Gurriel is a player who can turn a below average position into an average position, a C- into a B or B+ if you will. Not exciting, but seemingly the kind of player the Guardians will likely target if their past activity is any indicator.
Ian Happ, Chicago (Switch) – 27 – .325, 1 (.348, 2.4) 2022 – A rental switch-hitter who had a bit of a down-year offensively but has much better peripherals in general as a hitter. He is also not a very good defender, but has positional flexibility. Does that sound like a Cleveland player, or what? He also seems like a plus-makeup guy from all I can read.
Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay (LH) – 27 - .325, 1.4 (.323, 1.7) 2022-2024 - Trading Meadows just seems like such a Rays thing to do this off-season, and Cleveland loves to trade with the Rays. But, of course, buyer beware.
Ketel Marte, Arizona (SH) – 28 – .381, 2.7 (.342, 3.1) 2022-2024 - Hard to argue that Marte would be an ideal addition, especially if his offensive prowess he's shown this year is ideal. He also, of course, would be the most expensive to acquire on this list, aside from POSSIBLY Winker.
Adam Frazier, San Diego (LH) – 30 - .340, 3.4 (.316, 1.5) 2022 – Sounds like the Padres might be doing a little bit of a teardown or overhaul of the roster, so I’d imagine Frazier will be available, as a rental. I’d be wary of 2021 possibly being a career year for Frazier, but he’s fine as an outfielder and can play second-base, so there is value there.
Trent Grisham, San Diego (LH) – 25 - .320, 2.1 (.338, 2.5) 2022-2025 – Interested in the guy who essentially replaced Josh Naylor on the Padres, anyone? Still a lot of value in Grisham, but IF the Padres really try a sort of overhaul of the roster, he’s the kind of player the Guardians should be interested in. I find it very unlikely they move him, though.
Ramon Laureano, Oakland (RH) - 27 - .327, 2.1 (3.5, 3.1) - 2022-2024 - Laureano would immediately solve an outfield spot and provide great defensive value as a player who can play center-field (that arm looks amazing in right!). Not sure Oakland would want to move on from such a great player under cheap team control, but it's an idea worth exploring. The cost would be high for someone who is not necessarily a lineup-changer.
Chad Pinder, Oakland (RH) – 29 - .301, 0.3 (.318, 1.1) 2022 – It was rumored that Cleveland had inquired about Pinder a couple years ago. He certainly crushes LHP, but that’s about all that he does. It wouldn’t excite me, but if the Guardians aren’t convinced in the value of Mercado, Harold Ramirez or Oscar Gonzalez, Pinder might be worth a look.
Andrew Benintendi, Kansas City (LH) – 27 - .322, 1.7 (.322, 1.4) 2022 – Benintendi is on his last year of arbitration, so you’d figure he would be a comparatively inexpensive acquisition, although there may be an intra-division tax. He is not a terribly exciting player, but certainly could turn a below replacement spot in the field into a slightly above replacement spot.
Jake Fraley, Seattle (LH) – 26 - .321, 0.3 (.289, -0.1) 2022-2026 – Fraley has had a solid year offensively but mainly as a platoon bat (132 wRC+ against RHP). That, in itself, isn’t a bad thing, but he has horrific defensive numbers as far as defensive runs saved. Outs Above Average has him as merely average, though. A name worth keeping in mind, as we know Seattle likes to trade, and Cleveland likes platoon bats. But, hey, if we’re going to trade for a Mariners’ outfielder, make it Haniger, I say.
Garrett Cooper, Miami (RH) – 31 – .367, 1.1 (.318, 0.5) 2022-2023 - So, Cooper’s primary position is first, but he has also played 600 some innings in the outfield and hasn’t been terrible there. The more I think about him, the more I think he is likely to be dealt and could be someone the Guardians would pursue to put in a corner outfield spot… if he hadn’t just torn his UCL. Monitor his recovery, because if he looks ready for Spring Training, he could be a late deal. Not sure Cleveland would trade for him before seeing how he recovers, however.
J.D. Davis, New York Mets (RH) - 28 - .358, 1.5 (.326, 1) 2022-2024 – Cleveland has some rapport with the Mets, obviously, but you have to wonder if the Mets are due for some turnover in the front office. Anyway, Davis can play first, third or a corner outfield spot, but none of them does he play well. Not sure the Mets would deal him since they are likely to need a DH next season and that would seem like the perfect spot for Davis.
Adolis Garcia, Texas (RH) – 28 – .316, 2.9 (-0.8, .284) 2026 - Meisel reported the team was sniffing around Garcia, a late bloomer. Impossible to know if his solid season is a fluke, though).
Crazy Idea: Jo Adell (22 year-old, right-handed hitter) or Brandon Marsh (23 year-old, left-handed hitter) from the Los Angeles Angels. Generally speaking, I would not expect a team that is hoping to compete like the Angels to even ponder trading young talent like Adell or Marsh. BUT, their organization is so desperate for pitching that I wonder if a possible blockbuster deal exists where Cleveland sacrifices some high-caliber young pitching for a high-caliber young outfielder like Adell or Marsh. Very probably NOT, but an idea worth having in the back of our minds as we follow the offseason movements. Personally, I’d love to have Adell who, before getting hurt, was finishing the season very strong, but Marsh looks to be a solid, outfield bat who could offer defensive prowess in a corner outfield spot as well (Marsh is a year and half older than Adell). Adell looks to be a solid-average defender in the corners, also. It would cost a good ML arm or two to get one of these guys, though, plus other good prospects who could help them in 2022 and beyond, so be careful what you wish for…
First Basemen Trade Targets – Age, wOBA and fWAR for 2021 (Projections for 2022) Years of Control Left
Matt Olson, Oakland (LH) – 27 – .383 wOBA, 5.1 fWAR (.353, 3.4) 2022-2023 – I’m on record as saying that the Guardians don’t need to upgrade at first where they have what looks to be league average production, already; they should focus on the outfield. HOWEVER, if there is even a remote chance that Oakland may be open to trading Olson, he would be at the top of my wish list. Great hitter, great defender, and still somehow miraculously only 27 years old, just hitting his second year of arbitration.
Darin Ruf, San Francisco (RH) – 35 – .383, 2.3 (.287, -0.7) 2022-2023 – Talk about your late breakout, Ruf is the classic example of this. Can we steal a Giants’ assistant hitting coach AND Ruf? I don’t see the Guardians trading for a 35 year old, in all seriousness, but good for Ruf for having such a great year.
Ji-Man Choi, Tampa (LH) – 30 - .337, 1 (.323, 0.8) 2022-2023 – We know the Guardians and Rays like to trade. We know the Rays like to deal guys who are headed into arb deals. Choi is mostly a DH, though, and is pretty much a platoon guy, so I don’t think it is a great fit, in the end.
Luke Voit, New York Yankees (LH) – 31 - .332, 0.7 (.362, 2.3) 2022-2024 – ZiPS loves Voit, and the Yankees don’t seem sold. It’s hard to make trades between teams looking to contend, but maybe something could be worked out here? Still hard for me to imagine Cleveland looking for this kind of deal when they have serviceable options at first and desperately need outfielders.
Jesus Aguilar, Miami (RH) – 31 - .334, 1.3 (.314, 0.4) 2022 – What could have been ours could be ours again! The second option to trade for from Miami is the Jesus Eagle himself. He seems like he has a great personality and he is a lot better than our current first-base options. But, again, I don’t see Cleveland spending resources in this spot.
Trey Mancini, Baltimore (RH) – 29 - .325, 0.6 (.349, 1.9) 2022 – He would be a rental, but I do wonder if there is some real value to be found here. He has understandably faded a little this season, but, with an offseason to recoup, might he have a little more in the tank for a 2022 season, fully stretched out and having rebuilt some strength? If Cleveland trades for a first baseman, I’d guess a rental like this would be more likely. SPEAKING of first basemen…
Potential Free Agent First Basemen Targets – Age – wOBA and fWAR for 2021 (Projections for 2022)
Freddie Freeman (LH) – 33 – A man can dream, can’t he?
C.J. Cron (RH) – 32 - .380, 2.1 (.356, 0.9) – Cron is not a good defender, but, man, can he hit the ball! And, it is not a Coors Field-only phenomenon. I’m still upset they didn’t sign him for 2021, but I’d be fine with him hanging out here for 2022. I’m guessing he’ll get a 2-3 year deal this year, though, and I don’t see the Guardians doing that.
Brandon Belt (LH) – 33 - .406, 3.5 (.326, 1) – Look at that wOBA and drool! Belt just broke his thumb, but it wouldn’t be an issue for 2022, I’d assume. He would bring a pretty neat veteran presence as well as a resurgent bat. But, he also may have priced himself out of Cleveland’s market. And, it’s hard for me to imagine him leaving the Giants, honestly.
Potential Free Agent Catcher Targets – Age – wOBA Defensive Runs Saved, Framing Runs for 2021 (ZiPS wOBA and fWAR for 2022)
Yan Gomes (RH) – 34 - .313 wOBA, 4 DRS, -2.6 FR (.307 wOBA, 1.1 fWAR) – A return engagement for the Gomer? He is not a good framer, but otherwise solid in all ways. Honestly, he may get more than the Guardians want to pay, given the limited market.
Christian Vazquez (RH) – 31 - .290, 4, 1.8 (.311, 2) – Probably the best free-agent in the market, so I’m assuming he won’t be in play for Cleveland.
Tucker Barnhart (LH) – 31 - .304, 2, 2.8 (.297, 1.2) – The Reds have an option, which they may exercise with an eye to trade Barnhart. At $7.5 million for one year, it would be a reasonable amount to pay for a starting catcher who had a good year in his second season since becoming a left-handed hitter vs. a switch-hitter.
Martin Maldonado (RH) – 35 - .259, -4, 1.6 (.278, 0.8) – Kinda meh all-around.
Stephen Vogt (LH) – 37 - .270, 0, 1.2 (.281, -0.2) – An older version of even more meh.
Roberto Perez – 33 - .256, -1, -0.9 (.270, 0.5) – I’m putting Perez as a free-agent because I can’t imagine any possibility of the team picking up his option. My argument, which I’ve repeated to just about everyone who has mentioned Bebo, is that there is value in trying to retain Perez at a re-negotiated salary because having played like 80 games over the past two years, he is a decent bet to have a healthy year at some point here. With that said, he has had a terrible year in every way and he very well may be washed, sadly.
COMPARE: Austin Hedges – 29 - .221, 11, 6.5 (.277, 0.5) – I’m shocked to see Hedges’ projections being this high offensively. I think if the Guardians really think Hedges can hit that .277 wOBA number, then he will be the starting catcher for 2022 and we’ll sign a Lavarnway-type as a backup until Lavistada is ready. But, personally, I think Hedges should be a backup to someone who is a better hitter.
Potential Catcher Trade Targets - Age – wOBA DRS, Framing Runs for 2021 (ZiPS wOBA and fWAR for 2022) Years of control left
Jacob Stallings, Pittsburgh (RH) – 32 - .308, 21, 7.6 (.289, 0.7) 2022-2024 – I had no idea Stallings was this elite defensively. He’s like getting Hedges with an additional .080 attached to the wOBA. So, well, if the Pirates are able to be persuaded to move on, I imagine he won’t come cheaply, but he’s definitely the kind of player I’d imagine Cleveland would be interested in pursuing.
Carson Kelly, Arizona (RH) – 27 - .326, 3, -0.1 (.319, 1.6) 2022-2024 – Why would Arizona move on from one of the very few, decent hitters who can play catcher who is not even thirty yet? Well, because they also have a good hitter who can catch in Dalton Varsho, if they wanted to make him the full-time catcher and take a step back defensively to get value in trading Kelly. I find this very, very unlikely. But, hey, if for some reason they are willing to trade Kelly, I’d hope the Guardians are first in line for a shot to land him.
Pedro Severino, Baltimore (RH) – 28 - .300, -11, -8.5 (.299, 1) – 2022-2023 – I don’t see Cleveland trading for a player whose defensive numbers are this poor, unless they have some reason to think they could improve them, which is admittedly not out of the realm of possibility.
Tom Murphy, Seattle (RH) – 30 - .292, 0, -2.5 (.289, 0.8) – 2022-2023 – Seattle has other options at catcher, so maybe they’re willing to move on from Murphy. He’d provide a decent upgrade offensively from Hedges and be league-average on defense.
Potential Free Agent Relievers – Age – xERA and FIP for 2021 (ZiPS for 2022):
Ian Kennedy, RHP – 37 – 4.05 xERA, 4.82 FIP (4.36 FIP, 0.3 fWAR). – Kennedy is doing some closing this year, but he seems like a likely non-roster invite for someone next year, which is the Guardian’s main market of interest.
Hector Neris, RHP – 32 – 2.82, 4.00 (4.26, 0.3) – Neris PROBABLY gets a major league deal for 2022, but you’d figure it will be a fairly inexpensive one.
Corey Knebel, RHP- 30 – 2.97, 2.85 (3.3, 0.7) – Knebel, to me, seems like the exact kind of reliever the Guardians should target on a 2-3 year deal, for $7-8 million a year. But, they don’t do that for relievers, and I get it – their value is way too volatile. But, if there’s ever a year to spring for one, this seems like that year. Knebel may get more than that.
Mychal Givens, RHP – 31 - 4.25, 4.34 (4.22, 0.4) – Similar to Neris, I’d think he gets a cheap, major-league deal.
Adam Ottavino, RHP – 36 – 3.77, 3.72 (3.57, 0.6) – Older but still has great numbers. I’d think he’d be in the same ballpark as what Knebel would get, but with more risk as an older arm.
Daniel Hudson, RHP – 34 – 3.26, 3.28 (5, -0.1) – What a year for Hudson! Not sure whether we should bet on a repeat, but maybe a name to look out for as a possible veteran signing.
Jake Diekman, LHP – 35 – 4.53, 4.46 (3.85, 0.4) – Just on the verge of minor-league invite territory, I’d think Diekman gets a cheap, major league deal. Worth considering for the Guardians.
Archie Bradley, LHP – 29 – 3.94, 4.34 (3.82, 0.7) – ZiPS sees this season as a bit of an outlier for Bradley. Maybe the Guardians could scoop him up on a cheaper deal and get a couple decent years out of him?
Blake Parker, RHP – 36 – 4.11, 3.86 (4.16, 0.3) – The numbers would seem to indicate that Parker has gotten lucky this year, and, to my untrained eye, that seems accurate. He is, again, at the minor-league invite level, I think, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see that opportunity come with Cleveland, again.
Bryan Shaw, RHP – 33 – 4.56, 4.51 (4.58, 0.1) – I do not want to see Shaw come back, not because I don’t love the guy, but because our coaching staff just can’t seem to not overuse him. Aside from that, he is definitely not a bad minor-league invite option.
Brad Boxberger, RHP – 33 – 3.38, 3.64 (5.44, -0.3) – MAN, ZiPS did not believe in Boxberger. So, gotta wonder if this year is a huge outlier. Otherwise, he seems like he is in the Neris/Givens category.
Ryan Tepera, RHP – 34 – 2.50, 2.67 (4.55, 0.1) – Another illustration of the volatility of relievers. Do you buy into the amazing year Tepera is having, or do you assume regression will hit in 2022? I feel like some team will buy into him being in the Ottavino-sphere.
Craig Stammen, RHP – 37 – 3.31, 3.83 (3.66, 0.6) – Stammen should get a major league deal, and, if you can get him for one year, he is the kind of vet who is as good a bet as any to get you some consistent outs.
Aaron Loup, LHP – 34 – 3.14, 2.44 (4.06, 0.2) – I’ve long been on the Loup-to-Cleveland train. He’s a solid lefty who can get right-handers out at a solid enough rate to be a good bullpen piece, for me.
Potential Relief Trade Targets - Age - xERA, FIP in 2021 (2022 ZiPS) Years of control left:
Luis Cessa, RHP – 29 – 3.51 xERA, 3.33 FIP (4.12 FIP, 1 fWAR) – Cessa is a ground-ball reliever who has benefited from very low Fly-Ball to HR levels over the past couples years. Not someone I’d target on his own, but if another trade happens with Cincinnati, he could be a useful piece.
Dylan Floro, Miami, RHP – 31 – 3.67, 2.89 (3.83, 0.4) – FA in 2024 – Looks like a solid vet option for a few years of cheap control. Might be the kind of player the Guardians could acquire while exchanging a Rule-5 eligible player for Floro and some more lottery-ticket-level prospects.
Chris Stratton, Pittsburgh, RHP – 31 – 3.69, 3.78 (4.70, 0.7) - FA in 2024 – The peripherals don’t look great, but, again, not a bad veteran option with cheap team control who wouldn’t cost much to acquire.
Brett Martin, Texas, RHP – 26 – 3.43, 3.57 (4.10, 0.6) – FA in 2026 – The Rangers are so weird about trades, but, if I were there GM, I’d look to deal this kind of arm for a big return this offseason. You’d have to overpay, but Martin’s a solid arm to eat up some 7th innings.
Tyler Kinley, Colorado, RHP – 30 – 3.83, 4.68 (5.36, -0.2) – FA in 2025 – The kind of guy who would likely benefit from getting out of Colorado. But, the Rockies are insane and don’t trade players they should.
Daniel Bard, Colorado, RHP – 36 – 4.25, 4.49 (4.62, 0.1) – FA in 2023 – Again, the Rockies are dumb so they probably won’t trade this guy. But, if they did, seems like the kind of guy who could add depth to a bullpen.
My preferences of outfielders to acquire would be 1. Jesse Winker, 2. Ketel Marte, and 3. Michael Conforto. Put any of those three in our lineup and our outlook improves immensely. For relievers, my preferences are: 1. Knebel, 2. Ottavino or 3. Hudson, all free-agents, and I find it pretty unlikely that the Guardians are in the market for the top-tier free agent relievers; it would go against their history, and, honestly, probably common sense. Relief arms are too volatile for significant investment.
I suspect the team may invite a first baseman to camp on a minor league deal (Perhaps they’d even look at a major league signing of C.J. Cron and moving on from Bradley in a trade? I’ve been a huge Cron fan for a while, now) and a veteran starting pitcher, or two (the Brad Peacock-type), as well as the usual parade of minor-league invite relievers.
Additionally, there may be guys who are at Triple-A for other teams that Cleveland may target in a deal. I did not research that far down the line, but we know that the Guardians like to look for the Mercados of the world and see if they can find value there.
For the fun of it, let's say the team trades for Ian Happ from the Cubs and trades for Tucker Barnhart from Cincinnati and Dylan Floro from Miami. With the amount of Rule-5 eligible players we have and young guys already in the majors, I think we can pull off those deals for those three players without depleting our system. I’m then projecting them to sign Tommy Pham to a 1-2 year deal. I went back and forth on Pham or Pollock, and I think Pollock will be more expensive and get a longer deal, so I went with Pham. (Extension priorities for me: 1. Jose, 2. Civale, 3. Reyes, 4. Bieber). This is obviously all guesswork, so I would not be at all surprised to see the team sign a McCutcheon or a Pollock, or maybe even a Canha, or Conforto or Starling Marte. As it is, my projected first-ever Opening Day lineup for the Cleveland Guardians is:
1. Myles Straw, CF (RH)
2. Tommy Pham, RF (RH)
3. Jose Ramirez, 3B (SH)
4. Franmil Reyes, DH (RH)
5. Ian Happ, RF (SH)
6. Amed Rosario, 2B (RH)
7. Bobby Bradley, 1B (LH)
8. Tucker Barnhart, C (LH)
9. Andres Gimenez, SS (LH)
I think a strong rotation and bullpen can get that lineup into the thick of the division race with the White Sox, with hopefully reinforcements coming from those players we protected on the roster from the Rule-5 as the year goes along.
- There’s an alternate reality where Paul Dolan and Chris Antonetti lose their collective minds and trade for Mitch Haniger, Cedric Mullins, Matt Olson and Tucker Barnhart. We’d then have a bottom-5 farm system, little depth, but an insane lineup that would be instantly ready for a World Series run. Know that I appreciate the logic in a more measured approach, but there is also a part of the fan in me that wants to go for broke in the Guardians’ inaugural season.
No matter what happens or what doesn’t happen, I’m excited to see what’s ahead!
Ahead of the November 20th deadline, the Cleveland Guardians will add Josh Naylor and Nick Sandlin to the roster from the IL. I think they will cut/DFA the following players currently on the 40-man:
That gives them the chance to add:
IF they then cut DFA one of Zimmer or Mercado or Johnson, one of Clement or Chang, one of Hentges or Allen and one of possibly Carlos Vargas or Francisco Perez, they have the chance to add Noel, Palacios, Tena and/or Scott before the Rule 5. I think at least one of those 4 get exposed in the Rule 5, and more likely that all but Palacios get exposed.