Below, I've attempted to be realistic about the money the Guardians might be willing to spend. I hope they surprise me and spend more, but these are the kind of moves I'm expecting, at the moment.
Quincy Wheeler’s Offseason Plan
Arbitration-eligible (with projected salaries from MLBTR):
Austin Hedges – $3.8 million – Picked up
Nick Wittgren – $2.8 million - Declined
Amed Rosario – $5.0 million – Picked up
Franmil Reyes – $4.4 million – Picked up
Shane Bieber – $4.8 million – Picked up
Bradley Zimmer – $1.5 million – Picked up
Cal Quantrill – $2.8 million – Picked up
Josh Naylor – $1.2 million – Picked up
Harold Ramirez – $1.6 million - Declined
Contract options (pick up or buy out):
José Ramírez: $12 million ($2 million buyout) – Picked up
Roberto Pérez: $7 million - Declined
Sign Manuel Pina, C – A 34 year-old catcher with great defensive numbers who is solid offensively. If Hedges continues to absolutely struggle at the plate, Pina is a guy who can probably split reps with Hedges. Let’s project Pina for 1 year and $3M. Initially, I was thinking the Guardians would trade for a starting catcher, but Terry Pluto's recent column indicated that they are planning to sign a veteran catcher to back-up Hedges, so, I have adjusted.
Sign Craig Stammen, RHP – They need some help in the bullpen, so I think they sign at least one relief pitcher to a major-league deal. I’ll project Stammen for 1 year and $5M.
Sign Andrew McCutchen, LF – McCutchen still has it with the bat, he provides veteran leadership, but his defense is in severe decline. However, with Franmil Reyes playing some outfield, you can get McCutchen some more days off his feet at DH. So, I think the Guardians can get McCutchen on a 1 year, $9M deal, with a team option for 2023.
Notes: Tommy Pham is also a reasonable option here… If the Guardians decide to go a little crazy, maybe they sign Avisail Garcia to a multi-year deal, which would be an significant upgrade. I don’t see Mark Canha or Starling Marte as realistic options – but, feel free to prove me wrong, Guardians! MLB Trade Rumors predicted Canha to the Guardians, and Castrovince predicted Marte to the Guardians in a recent column. If Marte happens, hey, I'll buy season tickets for the playoff priority because that would be a SERIOUS improvement.
Trade for Ian Happ, RF from the Cubs – I’m going to say the Guardians give up Jose Tena or Jhonkensy Noel for Happ. Happ worked with Valaika, and the teams have some connection points. Happ provides good production from the left-side, especially, with two years of arbitration left. Salary is projected to be $8M.
Trade for Dylan Floro, RP from the Marlins – Adam Scott or Joey Cantillo or Konnor Pilkington would be dealt for Floro, who shores up the bullpen some more. Salary is projected for $2M.
Notes: I’ve seen folks argue for Jesse Winker and Austin Meadows, maybe even Trent Grisham… I’m all in on those three guys, and, given Cleveland’s affinity for dealing with those front offices, it could happen, but I’m setting my sights and expectations a little lower for this simulation. They also have some chemistry with the Cubs and Marlins, so these deals seem reasonable.
All in all, these moves add approximately $27M to the Guardians’ payroll. That should put them a little north of $60M, overall, which seems very reasonable.
They’ll have to let Oscar Mercado go in this scenario, also, possibly Daniel Johnson, maybe in a deal for a lower-level prospect. They need to protect George Valera, Tyler Freeman, Brayan Rocchio, Richie Palacios, Cody Morris, Bryan Lavastida, and Pilkington or Cantillo (whoever is not dealt, or both if neither are dealt). Tena probably needs protection, and Noel MAY as well, though the jury among prospect gurus is out on him. I would protect Kwan and give him a bench spot over Zimmer, but that doesn’t seem to be the direction in which the team is headed.
I suspect that almost all of these moves will come in a flurry after the new CBA is announced sometime in late January to early February. But, I’d hope and expect there will be a couple trades before the November 20th deadline to announce who they’ll be adding to the roster before the Rule 5 draft.
The 25-man roster and a summary:
SP1: Shane Bieber, RHP
SP2: Cal Quantrill, RHP
SP3: Aaron Civale, RHP
SP4: Zach Plesac, RHP
SP5: Triston McKenzie, RHP
Notes: I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Guardians bring in a starting pitcher or two on a Spring Training invite. Maybe a Tyler Anderson if he slides that far in the market? But, to be honest, I’d love them to sign a Carlos Rodon and push Plesac and McKenzie to compete for the 5th starter role and have the loser go to the bullpen as a swing-man… but I don’t see how they justify allocating money to the starting pitching when they have so much of it under cheap team control.
Sam Hentges (LHP)
Dylan Floro (RHP)
Craig Stammen (RHP)
Anthony Gose (LHP)
Trevor Stephan (RH)
Nick Sandlin (RH)
James Karinchak (RH)
Emmanuel Clase (RH)
C: Austin Hedges (RH)
1B: Bobby Bradley (LH) – Bradley holds this down likely only until Naylor is healthy.
2B: Amed Rosario (RH) – He may be the shortstop with Gimenez at second, but it would make zero sense to me.
3B: Jose Ramirez (SH) – Please extend him, Guardians. Make our dreams come true!
SS: Andres Gimenez (LH) – I expect Arias and Gimenez to have an open competition in Spring Training.
LF: Andrew McCutchen (RH) – As noted, I think McCutchen gets some time at DH and regular days off.
CF: Myles Straw (RH)
RF: Ian Happ (SH)
DH: Franmil Reyes (RH)
Lineup looks something like:
7. A. Rosario
Yu Chang, IF – I think he did enough at the end of the season to earn himself a bench spot.
Owen Miller, IF/OF – Miller gets first look, I think, but with a ton of other infielders right behind him, he needs to improve quickly.
Manny Pina, C
Bradley Zimmer, OF – Maybe Valaika can fix him. As I said, I’d prefer Kwan here – I might even prefer Mercado - but I suspect Zimmer gets the nod.