Predicting the First Cleveland Guardians 40-Man Roster 1.0

We all know that there are a lot of decisions to be made for the Cleveland Guardians going into 2022, from whom to protect in the Rule 5 draft to what free agents or trade targets might help bolster a lineup in need of some additional thump. With that in mind, I'm going to do my best to do a series of posts to project a plausible 40-man roster ahead of next season, beginning with this post mid-way through August, planning to update with a 2.0 sometime in later September.

Starting Lineup:
Catcher - Roberto Perez. (I believe the team will decline his option, but renegotiate with him for another deal. If not, we may see either Wilson Ramos or Ryan Lavarnway brought back to back-up Austin Hedges as the starter).
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 think the team would definitely be open to trading Rosario, but, if a trade partner isn't found, I expect him to be moved to second base)
Shortstop - Andres Gimenez (I expect an open competition between Gimenez and Gabriel Arias in Spring Training, and I think Gimenez will slightly edge Arias out mostly due to being older and having ML experience. But, I also think Gimenez, Arias, Rocchio, and Tena will be offered as possible trade return if the Guardians go after a big outfield bat).
Third Baseman - Jose Ramirez (hopefully on a nice, long extension deal)
Left Fielder - Free Agent or Trade Addition (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 - Nolan Jones ("It is time" - Rafiki voice).
Designated Hitter - Franmil Reyes (Hopefully also gets a nice extension!)

Utility Infielder - Owen Miller
(I believe by the end of the season he will establish himself as a decent bench bat and solid backup for all infield positions)
Utility Infielder - Ernie Clement (We love light-hitting, great defense guys too much to let go of Clement, even though that would be my preference)
Outfielder - Harold Ramirez (I think Harold wins our meager competition between Zimmer, Mercado, Daniel Johnson, Oscar Gonzalez and Steven Kwan for this spot, but the rest of the season will be crucial in determining this)
Catcher - Austin Hedges (As I noted, will be the starter if Roberto is not retained)

Starting Rotation:
Shane Bieber
(Hopefully, also with a nice extension and a healthy shoulder)
Aaron Civale (Heck, extend him, too!)
Triston McKenzie (That's MY #3 starter)
Zach Plesac (Warts and all)
Cal Quantrill (That's a nice #5 starter, my friends. We back).

RP – J.C. Mejia, RHP
(I think he will be more than adequate in a relief role)
RP - Cody Morris, RHP (Looks great as a starter, but I think will be used similarly to how Quantrill was at the beginning of 2021)
RP - A FA vet, so I'm going with Corey Knebel, RHP on a 2-3 year deal, $8-9 mil AAV (Pencil in your preferred name here and preferred salary - Jake Diekman, Mychal Givens, Adam Ottavino, Archie Bradley, etc).
RP - Alex Young, LHP (I think the team is looking at him as opposed to Hentges)
RP - Justin Garza, RHP (Deserves another look, imho)
RP – Nick Sandlin, RHP
RP – James Karinchak, RHP (Year older, year wiser?)
RP – Emmanuel Clase, RHP

Trevor Stephan RHP - We made it! Now Trevor can work out his relief skills at Columbus for a bit.
Eli Morgan RHP - With Morris, the 6th starter and new Adam Plutko.
Gabriel Arias SS - As noted above, I think he gets a legitimate shot to win the job in Spring Training.
Josh Naylor 1B/OF - I'm still a believer in Naylor, but I'd guess he's not ready until mid-May
Carlos Vargas RHP - Watch out for Vargas to be in the pen by the end of 2022

Rule 5 Adds:
George Valera OF - Obvi
Brayan Rocchio SS - May be an even better prospect than Valera.
Tyler Freeman 2B - Amed's just keeping second-base warm for Tyler
Bryan Lavastida C - Nice to see him force his way on to the roster
Steven Kwan OF - I'm a believer that there may be something there. Look at his ROS projections from Steamer, they see him with a 105 wRC+ if brought to the majors now.
Richie Palacios 2B/OF - Hope to see him get some more time in center
Joey Cantillo LHP - Interesting to see so many LHP coming for Cleveland.
Konnor Pilkington LHP - See above.
Jose Tena SS - For me, a must add as a shortstop producing as he has.
Jhonkensy Noel 1B - The toughest decision... probably won't be picked but hard not to add him with how he has produced

And, that's 40 everyone. So, here we go.

Yu Chang - Trade or DFA
Nick Wittgren - Release
Sam Hentges - Trade or DFA
Logan S. Allen - Trade or DFA
Blake Parker - Release
Bryan Shaw - Release
Bradley Zimmer - Trade. If you cannot trade and he plays like he has, he probably has to be added to the roster, over Clement or Harold, I guess.
Daniel Johnson - Trade or DFA. Hoping D.J. surprises me the end of this season, because I'm sure he will get a look.
Cam Hill - DFA
Scott Moss - DFA
Kyle Nelson - DFA
Francisco Perez - DFA
Oscar Mercado - Trade or DFA - I could be convinced into keeping Mercado, but it also doesn't really seem like he is going to add enough offensive value to an outfield that already has Myles Straw.
I also realize that this makes Oscar Gonzalez a minor league free agent. I would try to retain him, but not at the expense of 40-man spot. I guess we will see if he makes his debut this fall and shows me differently.

Possible Free Agent Adds: Age - ZiPS for 2022, (Numbers for 2021)
Michael Conforto (LH) – 28 – 3.3 fWAR, .360 wOBA (0.5, 100) - Maybe he looks for a 1-year pillow deal? Heck, I'd give him a 3-4 year deal, myself.
AJ Pollock (RH) – 34 – 0.8, .319 (2.2, .370) - I've always loved Pollock, but 34 is pretty old.
Mark Canha (LH) – 33 – 1.6, .333 (2.5, .349) - Seems like a very Guardians player.
Starling Marte (RH) – 33 – 1.5, .312 (4.5, .384) - 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.
Tommy Pham (RH) – 34 – 1.3, .325 (1.6, .331) Will DelGua's dream of Tommy Pham PHINALLY come true??

Possible Trade Targets: Age - ZiPS for 2022, (Numbers for 2021) Years of Team Control left
Jesse Winker, Cincinnati (LH) – 28 – 1.2 fWAR, .357 wOBA (3.6, .408) 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 – 1.8, .335 (2.1, .340) 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?
Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay (LH) – 27- 1.7, .323 (1.5, .334) 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 – 3.1, .342 (1.5, .392) 2022-2024 - My favorite of the trade options.
Adolis Garcia, Texas (RH) – 28 - -0.8, .284 (1.7, .325) 2026 - Meisel reported the team was sniffing around Garcia, a late bloomer. Impossible to know if his solid season is a fluke, though).

So, my preferences 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.

It's important to note that our 40-man crunch lightens quite a bit if we trade some Rule-5 eligible guys like Tena for one of these targets, or, as many have suggested, one of our pitchers, like Plesac (NOT my preference, at all). I can't really predict that to happen, of course, but if it does, then you maybe have room to add folks like Oscar Gonzalez or Will Benson to the roster for a longer look.

I also suspect the team invites a first baseman to camp on a minor league deal (Perhaps C.J. Cron falls that far?) and a veteran starting pitcher, or two (the Brad Peacock-type), as well as the usual parade of minor-league invite relievers.

For the fun of it, let's say the team signs Michael Conforto, because, why not? It makes my job here easier because I don't have to figure out who we traded to acquire Winker or Marte. Give Conforto a higher AAV pillow-contract to re-establish his value and rake here while we wait for Valera. So, my projected lineup would be:

1. Myles Straw, CF
2. Michael Conforto, LF
3. Jose Ramirez, 3B
4. Franmil Reyes, DH
5. Nolan Jones, RF
6. Amed Rosario, 2B
7. Bobby Bradley, 1B
8. Roberto Perez, C
9. Andres Gimenez, SS

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.

All right, there it is! Tell me what I missed, what I got wrong, and what I need to fix ahead of version 2.0 of this effort.

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