Scott's 2021-22 Offseason Plan: Rebuilding the Outfield from Cincinnati to Hiroshima

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Weirdly, this might be the most positive I've felt about the state of the now-Guardians roster in several seasons. Not how it's currently constituted, mind you, but I think there is a real opportunity for them to upgrade without having to break the bank and putting a great team on the field to usher in the much-needed rebrand. I'm still not 100% confident ownership will do all of this, but with how poorly things went in the first season post-Lindor, it only feels like they can go up from here. The primary goal of this exercise will be to fix the much-maligned outfield.

Let's begin!

Arbitration options:

Austin Hedges (estimated $3.8M arb, pick-up): I like Hedges, he's literally a younger Roberto Perez with maybe a tad less contact and a tad more raw power. The glove is elite and he works great with Cleveland's young staff. He can serve as a fantastic backup and is also more than capable of starting.

Nick Wittgren (estimated $2.8M arb, decline): Wittgren and his wife Ashley dove headlong into embracing the Cleveland community during their time here and did a lot of really cool local charity work. Wittgren was also a very dependable and consistent reliever in both 2019 and 2020, but not so much in 2021. Wittgren's a good dude but we won't be bringing him back purely for baseball reasons.

Amed Rosario (estimated $5M arb, pick-up): Rosario has a decent bat, particularly against LHP, but his glove is inconsistent at best at shortstop. For the second year in a row, I'll be picking up the arb option for our starting shortstop and moving him in a deal. See below.

Franmil Reyes (estimated $4.4M arb, pick-up): A no-brainer. If the Franimal can stay healthy, he has a real shot at 50 homers over the course of a full season.

Shane Bieber (estimated $4.8M arb, pick-up): Duh. It's Shane Bieber.

Bradley Zimmer (estimated $1.5M arb, decline): I feel bad for Zimmer. His career has stalled-out due to multiple injuries and he hasn't provided the kind of dynamism he initially showed in his rookie season. The bat never really came around and his defense isn't what it once was, maybe he'll be able to revive his career elsewhere.

Cal Quantrill (estimated $2.8M arb, pick-up): Quantrill had something of a breakout in 2021 and pitched particularly well in the second-half, it'll be interesting to see how he builds upon that success.

Josh Naylor (estimated $1.2M arb, pick-up): Naylor is a bit of an odd duck. After being acquired at the deadline in 2020 and carving out a place in the hearts of Guardian fans everywhere for beating-up on the Yankees in the Wild Card round of the playoffs & generally just playing like his hair was on fire, Naylor largely underperformed in 2021. He never really showed the elite approach he had in the minors and ultimately had his season cut-short by way of a gruesome leg injury. That could genuinely alter the trajectory of his career but it's too early to really tell at this point, and he's still only 25.

Harold Ramirez (estimated $1.6M arb, decline): The Other Ramirez showed some interesting batted-ball metrics during his time in Cleveland, but nothing much came of them after some limited initial success, and his defense was utterly atrocious in all three outfield spots. He did have a fun nickname though: Barreled Ramirez (because he was towards the top of the StatCast leaderboards in barrels).

Contract options:

Jose Ramirez ($12M option, pick-up): He's the face of the franchise at this point and is on a Hall of Fame career trajectory. Cleveland should do everything to can to re-extend J-Ram, but for the purposes of this exercise we'll be ignoring a potential extension.

Roberto Perez ($7M option, decline): I love Perez, but he's not the same player he once was. He hasn't been able to replicate the offensive breakout he had in 2019 and his defense has also started to fall-off too. Add-in that Hedges is just a cheaper/ younger version of Perez and the decision here is pretty clear.


Trade Amed Rosario, Richie Palacios, Jose Tena, and Daniel Espino for Jesse Winker of the Cincinnati Reds

Winker is coming off an All-Star season where he hit a stellar .305/.394/.556 (albeit playing half his games at the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark and with heavy platoon splits). He's not exactly a good defender but he should fare okay in LF in Progressive Field. Cincy hasn't had a real shortstop since...Zack Cozart had his one good season in 2017? Arguably you could go even further back to Barry Larkin? Regardless they need a shortstop and Cleveland has those in spades (hence why Rosario is expendable)! Obviously giving up Palacios, Tena, and Espino is *a lot* for one guy, but Cleveland desperately needs to clear it's 40-man for the impending roster crunch, and Winker is a genuinely good hitter. He would immediately lengthen the lineup and plug-in really nicely behind Franmil Reyes (or maybe even in front of?). Winker is estimated to make $6.8M in arbitration, Cleveland can easily pay that.

Free Agents:

Sign Seiya Suzuki of the Hiroshima Carp

I have been on the Seiya Suzuki hype train for years. I follow NPB almost as closely as I follow MLB and am a fan of Suzuki's original team, the Hiroshima Carp. Thus, I've seen him play a lot--and he looks legit. I genuinely believe he will be the best Japanese position player we've seen come to the States since Ichiro. During his 9-year career in Japan, Suzuki has hit .315/.415/.571 (walking more than he's struck out over the last 3 years) and is coming off of a bonkers .319/.436/.644 slashline with a career-best 38 home runs in 2021. During his time in Japan he's been an All Star every season since 2016 and has won 4 Gold Gloves (though Delta Graphs thinks his defense is slightly below average). He also has showed up for Japan big time in the Olympics over the years (and handled MLB pitching) and helped lead the Carp to 3 Central League titles and 2 trips to the Japan Series from 2016-18. He is going into his age-27 season and would fit perfectly in RF, I've seen him comped online to a young Justin Upton or AJ Pollock. We've seen smaller market clubs go after Japanese players posted by NPB in the last few years, so I really don't think Cleveland would get priced-out, but they'll need to move quickly as several clubs have already been reported to show interest in Suzuki (for the love of God do *not* let him go to the Royals). After paying the posting fee, maybe a 3-4 year deal with an AAV of $15-18M? I'm really shooting in the dark here. Ultimately Seiya could be a wildly successful marketing opportunity to help sell the rebrand in addition to further lengthening the lineup and improving the outfield. Get it done, Dolan.

Sign Steve Cishek of the Los Angeles Angels:

Cishek wouldn't cost a ton (probably $1-$2M) and would add a proven veteran to a bullpen/ arm barn (thanks for that one, PETA) that will be full of young arms. There are a lot of interchangeable relievers that could probably be brought in, Cishek seemed to me like one of the better mixes of low-cost/ low downside, decent-enough upside.

The Full 26-Man:

At the end of the day, the roster would look something like this:

  • SP1: Shane Bieber
  • SP2: Aaron Civale
  • SP3: Cal Quantrill
  • SP4: Zach Plesac
  • SP5: Triston McKenzie
  • Bullpen: Steve Cishek, Francisco Perez, Kyle Nelson, Justin Garza, Nick Sandlin, James Karinchak, Anthony Gose, Emmanuel Clase
  • C: Austin Hedges
  • 1B: Bobby Bradley
  • 2B: Andres Gimenez
  • SS: Gabriel Arias
  • 3B: Jose Ramirez
  • LF: Jesse Winker
  • CF: Myles Straw
  • RF: Seiya Suzuki
  • DH: Franmil Reyes
  • Bench: Bryan Lavastida, Yu Chang, Oscar Mercado, Josh Naylor

There are a lot of different directions the Guardians could go in to improve the lineup further. Bobby Bradley isn't exactly a sure thing at 1B, and neither are Josh Naylor or...Nolan Jones? I'm not even sure who's on that depth chart at this point. If the A's are indeed getting ready to blow-it up (which it looks like they are), Matt Olson would be a fantastic get.

Catcher could also (and probably should) be upgraded, maybe Carson Kelly or Wilson Contreras?

There are other options for the outfield as well: Cedric Mullins, Ketel Marte, Bryan Reynolds, Teoscar Hernandez, or Loudres Gurriel would all be upgrades on par with Winker, thought they all could vary in cost. If someone else beats them to the punch on Suzuki, Michael Conforto looks like a great buy-low candidate, or if they really wanna' throw fielding concerns out the window, 2021 World Series MVP Jorge Soler wouldn't be a bad get. Or maybe George Valera goes full Juan Soto.

I should note they might wanna' kick the tires on more veteran relievers than just Cishek. The possibilities are endless!

And one more note: Ramirez, Bieber, and Reyes are all prime extension candidates. Reyes is probably the most likely to happen this offseason, but getting any (or all three) of those guys locked-up (re-locked-up in Jose's case) would go a long way in repairing the damaged relationship between ownership and the fanbase. Going by my quick back of the napkin math, only considering moves I formally proposed, Cleveland's player payroll would *still* only be around $64.1M, so there is potentially room for extensions galore and even more moves.

What I'm saying is they should really just trade for Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani to save them from Arte Moreno.

Also I want my Guardians hat. Where is it? Stupid roller derby team.

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