Priorities for the Cleveland Guardians Off-Season:
1.Extend Shane Bieber
I don't expect an extension, nor do I think they should extend him at a rate commensurate with what he's likely to get as a free agent. But, IF Bieber is open to something more focused on security than max value, that's priority #1 for me.
2. Extend Triston McKenzie, Cal Quantrill, Steven Kwan and/or Andres Gimenez
3. Sign or Trade for a SP – I believe the Guardians need one more #2 or #3 starter to help bridge the team until Williams, Bibee and Espino are ready, and to help provide depth in case Bieber and/or McKenzie get hurt.
4. Sign or Trade for a RH Hitter – I believe the Guardians need another middle-of-the-lineup bat that can provide some extra thump against LHP.
5. Sign or trade for a veteran catcher to pair with Bo Naylor – Could be Maile or Hedges, but I’d prefer a Sean Murphy (who would be asked to play 1B/DH also), Christian Vazquez, or Mike Zunino.
6. Sort through your internal options as it relates to the 40-man roster
The best 26-man roster with our current players:
1. Steven Kwan, LF
2. Andres Gimenez, 2B
3. Jose Ramirez, 3B
4. Oscar Gonzalez, RF
5. Josh Naylor, DH
6. Amed Rosario, SS
7. Nolan Jones, 1B (confident he can play a good 1B with an offseason of work)
8. Myles Straw, CF
9. Bo Naylor, C
Will Brennan – OF
Luke Maile – C
Gabriel Arias – IF/OF
Tyler Freeman - IF
3. Sandlin/Vargas (depending on health)
4. De Los Santos
It’s worth noting that this team is probably already the favorite in the 2023 AL Central depending on what moves the White Sox and Twins make. So, I will be disappointed but not very surprised if the Guardians stand pat this offseason. I’m done EXPECTING them to make moves, but will remain hopeful they act to supplement this talented core. IF they do mostly stand pat with the current roster, I would remain pretty confident that they will look to make trades in the 2023 summer deadline to shore up any emerging roster holes. The Guardians just refuse to overspend in free agency or in trade returns; they know their price points and they won’t budge. So, activity this offseason all depends on what other teams do or don’t do in free agency and what they will and won’t accept and offer in the trade market. I’d expect a quiet November-December and then moves, if there are any, will happen in January and early February. But, I hope they surprise me and make a big splash at the Winter Meetings or with an Encarnacion-type Christmas present for Guardians fans.
Rule 5 Eligibility
The following list of players in their minor-league system who are eligible for the 2022 Rule 5 draft may be in need of protection: Peyton Battenfield, Joey Cantillo, Ethan Hankins, Tim Herrin, Adam Misiaszek, Kevin Kelly, Angel Martinez, Nick Mikoljchak, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Lenny Torres. With players like Jhonkensy Noel, Brayan Rocchio and Jose Tena who are not yet major-league ready, already on a full roster, the Guardians don’t have room to add many more players who are not yet ready for the majors. Cantillo and Martinez are locks. Hankins, Battenfield and Rodriguez seem like likely candidates to get picked if not protected.
Players on the 40-man Who Should Probably be DFA’d/Non-Tendered:
Kirk McCarty, LHP – I loved the journey of McCarty in 2022 and I’m not sold that he can’t be an effective left-handed reliever, but I suspect the team might prefer a minor league option like Tim Herrin or Andrew Misiaszek, instead.
Luke Maile, C – It’s possible the Guardians bring back either Hedges or Maile to back-up/split time with Bo Naylor in 2022, but I’d prefer a better hitter in that role, and I don’t see a need to give Maile the arb number he’s due when you could probably non-tender and still bring him or another similar player back for a cheaper price.
Anthony Gose, LHP - I suspect the magical run of Gose as a reliever ended with his season-ending surgery. It was certainly fun while it lasted and I hope he gets a further opportunity somewhere, but it'll probably be on a minor-league deal.
Players Cleveland Should Look to Trade:
Amed Rosario, SS – We know who Amed is, at this point. A great team player with a 100 wRC+ bat who plays average or below-average defense at short. Would he be a better fit at 1B against LHP, or 2B or 3B or LF? Doesn’t seem like he’s going to get a chance to see the answer to those questions in Cleveland. Amed provides a lot of intangible value to the team in the example he sets, and he also is best friends with Jose, so I would guess the team holds on to him, but also would not be at ALL surprised to see them trade him if the right deal presents itself. Jose Ramirez is an amazing person and player, but he’s not paid to be the GM of the Guardians.
Possible Fits: LAA, SFG, or NYY
Zach Plesac, RHP – I think we know at this point that Plesac is an acceptable #5 starter who would probably be a good-excellent bullpen arm. That is of use to any team. Unlike Civale, I don’t think there’s any reason to suppose Plesac will rebuild trade value that doesn’t exist now if given the opportunity. So, if you’re a contender in 2022 looking for an arm who can keep you in games and a guy who can throw some high-leverage relief innings until 2025 as need be… you’d probably give up a significant piece or two for Plesac. However, ahem, let me give you a roster-management bromide that will never fade: "YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH PITCHING." Plesac is likely too expensive in arbitration for the team to keep as a reliever, but perhaps if he is seen as a long-man, it would make more sense? I’m done with him because of his stupid broken hand stunts, but the team may feel differently.
Possible Fits: Any team looking to compete for the playoffs in 2023
Owen Miller, IF – We’re probably all feeling done with Miller, but I suspect he will probably bounce back to be a league average bat and his defensive numbers don’t look anywhere near as bad as I felt. However, I’ll be very disappointed if the team is content to bring him back as their RH platoon option for Naylor or their utility infielder. Instead, I think they’ll look to trade him.
Possible Fits: LAA, TBR, NYY, Mia, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Toronto, Baltimore.
Other Cleveland Players I’d Keep in the Back of My Mind for a Trade:
Aaron Civale – Like Plesac, if Cleveland finds a team that values starting pitching enough, I could see them dealing any starter not named Bieber or McKenzie.
Tyler Freeman – Quasi-blocked in Cleveland, but he’s still got the elite bat-to-ball skills.
Nolan Jones – Jones would be especially attractive to teams who think he could stick at third base, where he is blocked in Cleveland, but he also looked more than competent in right field.
Gabriel Arias – the emergence of Gimenez and the potential of Rocchio makes Arias possibly expendable. But, if the Guardians trade Amed, I’d expect to see Arias at SS, first, and he’s still a very exciting player.
Steven Kwan – Very unlikely, but if a team really values Kwan as a centerfielder and was willing to offer an elite pitcher in return, I could see the Guardians saying, "We have Kwan-lite in Brennan." Again, I would be shocked if this happened, but it’s not impossible.
Richie Palacios – Again, the contact skills are real, but Palacios is blocked by Kwan in left. Does the team view him as expendable? Palacios is not a good defender. It wouldn’t completely shock me to see a Palacios DFA if the roster crunch gets too real, but some team surely will want him in a trade.
Jose Tena – The middle-infield logjam means any middle-infielder on the 40-man could be available and Tena had a tough season… maybe the Guardians try to move him before any decline is confirmed?
Bryan Lavastida – If the Guardians deal for a catcher, Lavastida could become available, but I still like him as a depth option.
Konnor Pilkington – With what Pilkington has shown in Cleveland, he’s probably a viable fifth starter which has a lot of value. I wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed to see him get a shot at that fifth role over Morris if the Guardians move Plesac to the pen or in a trade.
Will Benson and Will Brennan also, of course, make sense to me as trade pieces. With Valera, Palacios and Jones in the system and Straw, Gonzalez and Kwan firmly entrenched on the major league team, it doesn’t really make sense to keep all eight of these players, nor do I think there is room. I think Palacios is the most likely prospect to be dealt, followed by Benson, Jones and Brennan.
There are some other solid minor league arms who might be available in the right deal, including Logan T. Allen, Hunter Gaddis, Xzavion Curry, Tanner Burns, and Joey Cantillo.
Names Who Would Only Be Available for a Top 25 MLB Bat or a #1 or #2 starting pitcher:
George Valera, Daniel Espino, Brayan Rocchio, Gavin Williams and Tanner Bibee – These are players I’d guess are the team’s "untouchable" prospects, which means you probably don’t trade them unless someone team-changing is on the table.
Other Player of Note:
Just want to mention that David Fry went to the Arizona Fall League. Fry has been crushing LHP in the minors and he has played catcher, first base, and third base. He doesn’t look like a particularly good defender, but it wouldn’t completely shock me if Fry gets a legitimate shot at winning a roster spot in Spring Training, especially if the Guardians miss out on some of the possible free agent targets. Fry is Rule 5 eligible, but I highly doubt a 27 year old 3rd catcher will be chosen by anyone.
Potential Trade Targets for the Guardians this Offseason
Fernando Tatis, Jr., IF/OF, 23.9 years old, RH, under team control through 2034 (as long as the contract doesn’t get voided due to his stupid decisions) AAV of $16.9M.
Analysis: I suspect San Diego examines opportunities for trading Tatis. I highly doubt Cleveland is in on the conversations, so I’m not going to spend much more time on the possibility. He’s obviously an amazing hitter you could probably put in LF or CF or even 2B, but those steroid and off-field injuries are a real concern that I really don’t think Cleveland would want to take on, especially at that length of a contract and those dollars.
Bryan Reynolds, 27.8 years old, OF, RH, Pittsburgh, Under Team Control through 2025, 125 wRC+ and 2.9 fWAR in 2022.
Analysis: I do believe Pittsburgh will trade Reynolds, and I’d love it if the Guardians were in on him. I love George Valera, but Bryan Reynolds is what you hope Valera will be someday, so there aren’t too many players I wouldn’t include in a discussion for Reynolds who would be under team-control through 2025 and would anchor the middle of the Guardians order. Reynolds plays ok in center but would seem to be a better fit in right-field. Unfortunately, any team looking to acquire him might have to pay a center-field tax, and the Guardians wouldn’t be interested in that, I would assume. I’ll also note that I had heard a reputable source say Reynolds isn’t necessarily LOVED in the Pirates’ locker room, but not sure that’s at all a factor here.
Sean Murphy, 28 years old, Catcher, RH, Oakland, Under team control through 2025, 122 wRC+ and 5.1 fWAR in 2022.
Analysis: Murphy is a good hitter, especially for a catcher, and mashed LHP in 2022. He’s a great framer and defender, which Cleveland loves. We know Cleveland checked in on him at the 2022 deadline, but Oakland was probably asking for Espino and Valera. Does the cost go down in the offseason, or does it go up? Oakland has young catching coming up, so I’m confident they deal Murphy. The question is whether or not the Guardians see him as an option to play 1B/DH, also, so he can split time with Bo, and whether they would give up the prospect capital necessary to get him? I think the answer is likely "no" to both questions, but he’s definitely a name to keep an eye on. Personally, I believe he could fill in at first at his height (6’3") so he is at the top of my wishlist along with Pablo Lopez (discussed below).
Brandon Woodruff, RHP, 29.8 years old, Under team control through 2024. 3.08 FIP, 3.5 fWAR in 2022.
Analysis: It seems like the Brewers will probably be open to trading one of their two pitchers due for free agency in 2025, and I’d guess Woodruff is the more available of the two between him and Burnes. That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to be extremely expensive. I think it would likely take Espino and Valera/Rocchio and then another decent piece or two. The question is… might it be worth it to have another Shane Bieber? I actually think it might be, but I doubt the Guardians’ front office agrees. Woodruff had a circulatory condition last year, so a lot may rely on how confident teams are that he has that under control.
Corbin Burnes, RHP, 28 years old, Under team control through 2024. 3.14 FIP, 4.6 fWAR in 2022.
Analysis: Burnes is a great pitcher and I just don’t see the Brewers trading him until they have to, but if the Guardians want to offer their top three-four prospects, plus, I imagine Milwaukee would listen.
Tyler Glasnow, RHP, 29.2 years old – under team control through 2024 with $30.35M due, 2.70 xFIP and 2.9 fWAR in 2021.
Analysis: I hate the idea of trading with the Rays, but they are one of the few contenders where you could imagine an exchange of good-great ML players, so I want to throw Glasnow out as a possibility. Having returned from Tommy John in late 2022, any team should get two healthy years from him. I suspect Tampa will keep Glasnow for at least one more year, but we know these two front offices have chemistry. It would obviously take a lot… a good major league piece and probably two top five prospects.
Blake Snell, LHP, 29.10 years old, under team control for $10M through 2023, 2.8 FIP and 3.7 fWAR.
Analysis: Like the Rays, Mariners and Guardians, the Padres are always open to trade possibilities. The Padres need to find some starting pitching for 2023, so I doubt they trade Snell, but maybe if a team like Cleveland were to offer them Gavin Williams, they might consider something like this. Personally, I wouldn’t do that, and I doubt the Guardians would either.
Pablo Lopez, RHP, 26.7 years old, on arbitration deals through 2024, 3.71 fWAR and 2.8 fWAR.
Analysis: The Marlins are, reportedly, looking to find more contact-oriented hitters and they’re one of the few teams that have a fair amount of starting pitching depth. I actually think they are likely to deal Lopez either this offseason or at the trade deadline.
German Marquez, 27.8 years old, RHP, Colorado, signed through 2023 with a club option ($15.5M AAV) – Projected for 3.6, 3.8, and 3.8 wins, 4.02 xFIP, 7.43/3.12 K/BB/9 for 2022.
Analysis: Hear me out – Marquez did not have a good 2022 after the Rockies (stupidly?) asked him to rely more on a four-seam fastball. I continue to salivate at the idea of Guardians’ pitching folks getting their hands on Marquez and getting him out of Colorado. But, the Rockies never trade their players, even when it would make tons of sense to do it, so this will not happen and I’m not sure why I’m even bringing it up. Rockies, never change, you idiots.
Tyler O’Neill, 27.4 years old, LF, RH, St. Louis Under team control through 2024 – Projected for 2.3, 3.3 and 3.1 wins over the next three years, 101 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR in 2022. Career 127 wRC+ against LHP.
Analysis: So, O’Neill put up a 144 wRC+ in 2021 and made himself look untouchable, then in 2022 almost halved that number and made himself look, also, untouchable in a different sense. St. Louis is a smart team so I don’t imagine they would sell low on O’Neill. But, would they sell him at a reasonable price? If so, I would be entirely in support of offering a couple higher-profile, near-ready prospects including a pitcher like Cody Morris or maybe Gavin Williams if the Cardinals would like to expand the deal.
Rhys Hoskins, 29.7 years old, 1B/DH, RH, Philadelphia. Under team control through 2023. 122 wRC+ and 2.2 fWAR in 2022.
Analysis: Many folks have assumed with how key Hoskins has been to the Phillies in their World Series run that he is unlikely to get traded. Maybe they are correct, but I also think the Phillies are overloaded with 1B/DH types and Hoskins is the one closest to free agency. I doubt they’d refuse to trade him if the right deal came up, but his performance this postseason certainly allows them to drive up the price which would make Cleveland an unlikely suitor. He crushes LHP and apparently has ice in his veins, so sign me up, but trading like Daniel Espino for one year of Hoskins would be too rich for my blood.
Christian Walker, 31.6 years old, 1B, RH, Arizona, Under team control through 2024 – 122 wRC+ and 4.1 fWAR.
Analysis: Everyone is on Walker because he crushed LHP at a 132 wRC+ in 2022, though his splits are pretty even at slightly above average against RHP and LHP for his career. He is, however, the best defensive first baseman in baseball, which would be quite a contrast defensively if the team were to put Naylor at DH and have Christian Walker playing full-time at first. I think Arizona probably looks to trade Walker, but Cleveland is only in on that if they believe those 36 homers from 2022 are somewhat sustainable for him.
Trevor Rogers, LHP, 24.11 years old, Miami, under team control through 2026, 10.14/3.49 K/BB/9 and 3.78 xFIP in MLB so far.
Analysis: Rogers had a tough year, but there is a lot to like in the lefty from the Marlins. The Marlins are looking to try to increase their hitting ability and they have a lot of left-handed pitching talent coming, so trading Rogers is a possibility. It would be fun to see what the Guardians pitching development and coaching team could do with Rogers. It would obviously take some pretty good hitting prospects to get him - maybe a Brennan, Jones and Tena?
Edward Cabrera, RHP, 24.6 years old, Miami, under team control another seven years. 9.46/4.12 K/BB/9 and 4.12 xFIP in the majors so far.
Analysis: Cabrera, like Rogers, is another great Marlins arm who could possibly be in discussions at the right price. It would be fun to see a team like Cleveland with a lot of great hitting prospects who could play at third, short and centerfield make a deal for a talented young arm with a team like the Marlins who have a lot of talented young arms. Maybe Arias and Petey Halpin could be involved here?
Mitch Keller, 26.6 years old, RHP, Pittsburgh, Under team control through 2025, 2.1 fWAR and 3.88 FIP (suggested by DelGua in the comments - thanks, DG!)
Analysis: There have been a number of pitchers who have made huge gains after being traded from the Pirates. Could Keller be the next? His fastball averages close to 96 mph and he has a great slider... seems like the kind of pitcher the Guardians could maximize. As someone who will be 27 years old, I wonder if the Pirates might be willing to maximize his value. However, the Pirates seem to be sticking to very high asking prices lately, so, I'm not sure there's a match here.
Hunter Renfroe, 30.9 years old, OF, RH, Milwaukee, Under team control through 2023 - 124 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR in 2022 (suggested by pezzicle in the comments - thanks pezz!)
Analysis: The fact that Renfroe is due around $13M in his final year of arbitration should 100% make him available from a team like Milwaukee. He has a career 136 wRC+ against LHP and is an average fielder in RF (who has played 10 innings at first, also, so he may be a possibility there). There is zero doubt in my mind that the Guardians and Brewers could swing a trade involving Renfroe - a big factor might be if the Guardians view Renfroe as a guy who could legitimately fill in at first base as well as a corner outfield spot.
Anthony Santander, 28 years old, OF, SH, Baltimore, Under team control through 2024 – 120 wRC+, 2.5 fWAR in 2022.
Analysis: It turns out we had a decent outfielder on our team but Baltimore snagged him from us in the Rule 5. Santander is still fairly young and does have a career 112 against RHP. He’s an above-average hitter who profiles just fine in a corner outfield but probably not at first, so I don’t think he offers quite enough for the Guardians to go for him.
Sam Haggerty, 28.5 years old, IF/OF, RH, Seattle Mariners – 114 wRC+ and 1.5 fWAR
Analysis: Speaking of former Guardians, Haggerty has a career 162 wRC+ against LHP. At 5’11" he may be able to play first, and he can fill in at any outfield position and at second-base. That kind of player is perfect for the Guardians’ roster, but also, any roster. DiPoto is always willing to talk about guys, so I wouldn’t rule out a possible fit here, but don’t see why the Mariners would be motivated to move him.
Juan Yepez, 24.8 years old, IF/OF, RH, St. Louis, Under team control for the next six years – 109 wRC+ in 2022.
Analysis: Well, Oscar Mercado provides a cautionary tale of trading for young Cardinals outfielders, but if the Guardians saw Yepez as a guy who could mash lefties, they could probably sway the Cardinals with the right young pitcher. But, there’s no proven value here as he only put up a 95 wRC+ against LHP in 2022.
Danny Jansen, 27.6 years old, Catcher, RH, Toronto – Under team control through 2024. 140 wRC+ and 2.6 fWAR in 2022, 5 DRS and -1.4 Framing Runs.
Analysis: Jansen had a good year for Toronto, who also has Gabriel Moreno and Alejandro Kirk, and I think Jansen is the one they will look to trade. The Blue Jays are going for it in 2023, though, so the Guardians would have to trade pitching that could help Toronto now if they were able to put a package together for Jansen. Jansen was 1.3 Framing Runs above average in 2021, so it seems like he is mostly an average defensive catcher. The things that would make sense to me about a Jansen-type addition is that he is an offensive upgrade and would profile well as a guy to split time with Bo and at 6’2", he probably could be an option at first, which might help him avoid some of the injuries he has been facing. However, Jansen only has a career 83 wRC+ against LHP, so I doubt he’s particularly better against LHP than RHP which might be something the team is looking for in this potential addition.
Carson Kelly, 28.3 years old, Catcher, RH, Arizona, Under Team Control through 2024 – 103 wRC+ and 1.8 fWAR in 2021.
Analysis: Kelly had a rough 2022, but this is exactly the kind of player I would love to see Cleveland try to acquire, as he is a solid defensive catcher and a good framer, and he’s also the perfect age to match-up with Bo Naylor’s timeline. However, Arizona and Cleveland front offices do not seem to have good chemistry, and both teams are at a similar place in their team development phase looking to 2023-2025 to really go for a playoff push. That makes matching up for talent exchanges especially challenging.
Alec Bohm, 3B/1B, 26.2 years old, RH, Philadelphia, under team control through 2026. 98 wRC+ and 1.5 WAR in 2022.
Analysis: Speaking of 1B/DH types in Phillie, Bohm is another one, though he looks like he can play good defense at first… but not at third. One wonders if he might be able to hack it in left-field as a third baseman by trade, but there’s no way of knowing for sure. The main reason Bohm is of interest to me is that he has a 137 wRC+ against LHP. He seems like a great candidate to split time with Naylor at 1B. It would really depend on if the Phillies have given up on him as a future third baseman because the Guardians are not going to pay the trade return price to acquire him, otherwise. If the Phillies admit that Bohm is just another 1B/DH, then the Guardians should absolutely acquire him and worry about what to do with Jhonkensy Noel when the time comes, if Noel proves he deserves a spot.
Some Major League Relief Arms of Note: The Guardians continue to do a great job finding relievers on the cheap, so I’m not sure they’ll expend resources getting proven relief options. If they did, I’d expect the Guardians to target guys with higher strikeout rates, or, conversely, low walk rates, and guys who are under 30 and under control through 2024 at least. Here are some possibilities:
David Bednar, 28 years old, RHP, Pittsburgh, Under team control through 2026
Victor Arano, 27.8 years old, RHP, Washington, Under team control through 2026
Tanner Rainey, 29.9 years old, RHP, Washington, Under team control through 2025
Dillon Tate, 28.5 years old, RHP, Baltimore, Under team control through 2025
Keegan Akin, 27.6 years old, LHP, Baltimore, Under team control through 2027
Tanner Scott, 28.6, LHP, Miami, Under team control through 2024
Brett Martin, 27.5 years old, LHP, Texas, Under team control through 2025
Jeff Hoffman, 29.8 years old, RHP, Cincinnati, Under team control through 2024
Tyler Kinley, 31.8 years old, RHP, Colorado, Under team control through 2024
Rowan Wick, 29.10 years old, RHP, Chicago Cubs, Under team control through 2025
Fish Still in the School:
A thought I’ve had is that, because of playoff expansion, teams may look to exchange prospects more than big leaguers. And, the Guardians may explore trades for position of need that could involve them giving up 2 players for a player who fills a hole on their roster (catcher or slugging outfielder, primarily). They also could look to exchange guys on the 40-man, or guys who will be Rule-5 eligible in December for guys who are 1 or more years away from Rule-5 eligibility. So, with those thoughts in mind, here are some names that interest me around the league:
Outfielders/Utility IF/OF Guys:
Damon Keith, 22.4 years old, OF, RH, Los Angeles Dodgers – Drafted in 2021 – 111 wRC+ in high-A. Rule-5 eligible in December of 2024.
Analysis: This is the kind of move I could see Cleveland doing to relieve some of the 40-man crunch. Trade the Dodgers a solid relief arm for a player like Keith whom they can hold off on adding to the roster and bring up the power he’s flashing in a year or two. Keith also seems like a very toolsy player, which the Guardians seem to like.
Corey Julks, 26.8 years old, OF, RH, Houston – 108 wRC+ in Triple-A with a .503 SLG% - Rule-5 eligible now.
Analysis: There are a variety of folks like Julks around the minors that offer some power potential but have a variety of flaws/are late-boomers. The Guardians could pursue someone like that and give them a shot to show some power potential. His power jump in 2022 with a reasonable .301 BABIP is interesting.
Yosy Galan, 21.6 years old, OF, RH, Texas – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 35+ - 100 wRC+ and .429 SLG% at Low-A – Rule-5 eligible in 2024.
Analysis: Personally, I love Galan as another Joey Gallo with potentially better contact skills. He’s another example of several outfielders who are years away from Rule-5 eligibility who could help increase the slugging potential of the Cleveland system if Cleveland wants to move a pitcher close to the majors to Texas.
David MacKinnon, 27.5 years old, 1B/3B, RH, Oakland Athletics – 157 wRC+ with a .632 SLG% in Triple-A with Angels before trade to Oakland. Rule-5 eligible.
Analysis: Had a rough stretch for a short period with his first MLB look, but, again, a guy who has some positional flexibility and might be a lefty masher.
Donny Sands, 26.1 years old, RH, Catcher, Phi – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 40 – 130 wRC+ with a .428 SLG% in Triple-A, spent a little time in the majors in 2022.
Analysis: Sands had a rough first look in the MLB, but, again, right-handed hitter to go along with Bo Naylor, anything should be considered.
Tres Barrea, 27.8 years old, RH, Catcher, Washington – 103 wRC+ with a .424 SLG% in Triple-A – On the 40-man.
Analysis: Barrea is a backup catcher who can hit. It might be fun to try one of those for a change!
Pitchers – In the Mike Clevinger scenario, I could see the Guardians targeting a pitcher who is somewhat blocked in their current organization whose value they could maximize. There are no doubt dozens of these types of players, but here are a few names who’ve caught my eye.
Jose Butto, 24.2 years old, RHP, New York Mets – Team Rank: 14, FV: 40 – 4.17 xFIP, 10.53/3.41 K/BB/9 at Double-A, 7.36/2.21 K/BB/9 and 4.62 xFIP at Triple-A.
Taylor Dollard – 23.8 years old, RHP, Seattle Mariners – Team Rank: 3, FV: 45, 3.60 FIP and 8.19/1.94 K/BB/9 at Double-A.
Spencer Arrighetti, 22. 9 years old, RHP, Houston Astros – Team Rank: 25, FV: 35+, 4.12 xFIP and 12/3.86 K/BB/9 at Double-A.
I have chosen not to analyze all possible minor-league relief arms that the Guardians could target because this article would then go well beyond novel-length. Suffice it to say that every organization has relief arms who don’t need Rule-5 protection that the Guardians could probably acquire in the right deal, and there are others, like Enyel De Los Santos, they could likely sign to minor-league deals and then transform into high leverage weapons.
Free Agent Options
Jose Abreu, 1B, 35.8 years old, RH, 137 wRC+ and 3.9 fWAR in 2022 – My friend Alex, with 216 Baseball Podcast, is a huge advocate for Abreu and I can’t argue with him. If Abreu can be had for a 1-2 year deal, I can’t see a good reason not to make that move if I’m the Cleveland Guardians. His contact-first approach and power potential fit perfectly on this team, plus his ability to play first and mash left-handed pitching. Plus, I can’t deny the joy I’d feel if the Guardians were able to get Abreu to a World Series when the White Sox were unable to do so. However, I do suspect that Abreu will get more in free agency than what the Guardians want to pay. They may see him as a second Encarnacion, which wasn’t Paul Dolan’s favorite move, from what I can gather. If they want to make the offseason an instant success, however, signing Abreu does that for me, even at his advanced age. I just don’t think they’d go more than 2 years at most.
Josh Bell, 1B, 30.2 years old, SH, 123 wRC+ and 2 fWAR – If you’ve read my writing for any period of time over the last couple years, you know I love Josh Bell. I’m a firm believer in the value you get from Bell, and he’s known as a great guy in team clubhouses. I suspect that Bell, like Abreu, will get a three-year deal that will be more than what the Guardians want to spend. But, again, switch-hitter who mashes lefties… this fits the Guardians’ mold pretty well. He also has played some left field competently, so there may be some additional positional flexibility to exploit to get him in the lineup. If MLB undervalues first baseman, as it has these past couple offseasons, I could see the Guardians grabbing Bell on a 1-year deal late in January.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, 33.2 years old, LH, 132 wRC+ and 2.4 fWAR in 2022 – I don’t see the fit here because the Guardians are a left-handed heavy club with a good option for a lefty first baseman in Naylor. But, in my lineup above, I have Jones playing first. So, it’s not impossible. Just doesn’t make sense for me for the Guardians to spend money on Rizzo when they have Jones and Naylor on hand, so I find it very unlikely, and I also think Rizzo, like Abreu, is a bit older than what I want in a free agent first baseman.
Brandon Drury, IF/OF, 30.2 years old, RH, 123 wRC+ and 3.0 fWAR in 2022 – Drury had a career year in 2022, especially crushing LHP, and he can also play anywhere on the baseball diamond but centerfield or catcher. The versatility seems like something Cleveland would love, and IF they feel like adjustments he’s made to hit LHP and pitching in general are sustainable, he seems like the perfect kind of fit. I doubt anyone necessarily sees Drury as a must-have everyday player, so knowing in Cleveland he could get everyday at-bats could be of interest. I also have heard the team was trying to acquire Drury at the 2022 trade deadline, so seems to me that they may like him. He has a career 101 wRC+ against LHP, so, while he has had other good offensive seasons, you’ve gotta hope 2022’s 160 against LHP is somewhat sustainable if you make this move.
Mitch Haniger, OF, 31.10 years old, RH, 113 wRC+ and 0.8 fWAR in 2022 - It's possible that Haniger had a tough season after coming back from an injury, and it might be worthwhile to give him a 1 year deal and give him mostly AB's at DH and occasionally in a corner outfield as needed. He's never played first, unfortunately, so it doesn't help with the Naylor issue, but maybe Arias plays 1B and Naylor sits against LHP with Haniger being DH. Haniger has a career 132 wRC+ against LHP.. I imagine the Guardians would be in on conversations for a 1-year deal.
Wil Myers, IF/OF, 31.10 years old, RH, 104 wRC+ and 1 fWAR in 2022 – Myers is another very interesting player to me as he’s competent in the outfield and solid defensively at first but should be a short-side of the platoon player with his 119 wRC+ for his career against LHP carrying his value. I expect San Diego will decline their club option and I expect Myers will sign late in the winter for a one-year deal somewhere… which sounds a lot like a Cleveland thing. And I wouldn’t hate it. I think he could split with Naylor at first and bridge to Noel very competently and maybe also give Kwan a break in LF as needed, or play LF while Kwan spells Straw in CF.
Carlos Santana, 1B, 36.6 years old, SH, 102 wRC+ and 1 fWAR for 2022 – Who doesn’t love Carlos Santana and who doesn’t want to see him retire in a Cleveland uniform? With a career 125 wRC+ versus LHP, Santana seems like another prime candidate for the short-side of a platoon but I do wonder if Tito would play him more than he should, and I also wonder if the team would be willing to spend an entire roster spot on a 1B/DH guy who shouldn’t play every day. It wouldn’t be the most exciting of moves, but I’m not going to complain if Santana ends up on this team because I love him and do believe in his ability to mash lefties for one more year.
Trey Mancini, 1B/OF, 30.7 years old, RH, 104 wRC+ and .9 fWAR in 2022 – Mancini does have a mutual option with Houston, but I’d guess he tries free agency. He only has a 112 wRC+ against LHP in his career, but he has hit RHP almost as well. He’s also competent in the corner outfield. I could totally see Cleveland signing Mancini, but, again, only on a one-year deal, late in the winter. And, I do think guys like Abreu, Myers, Bell, and probably Drury are better choices.
Joey Gallo, OF, 28.11 years old, LH, 85 wRC+ and 0.6 fWAR in 2022 - Hear me out... Gallo really suffered in NYC but a 122 wRC+ in 2021 with Texas and NY and 38 homers, a 144 wRC+ and 22 homers in an injury-shortened 2019... he has a 104 wRC+ against lefties in his career and he's capable of playing any outfield position and first base. Am I crazy for thinking he might be a great way to add some power on a one-year deal?? I don't think so.
Christian Vazquez, C, 32.2 years old, RH, 99 wRC+ in 2022 and 1.6 fWAR – Vazquez is a great defender and a good framer, he also has a 92 wRC+ against LHP for his career. I’d absolutely love to see him replace Hedges as the backup catcher/mentor option for Bo Naylor. Why? Because Hedges can’t freaking hit, guys. I cannot watch the man go hitless for weeks at a time again in 2023.
Mike Zunino, C, 31.7 years old, RH, had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery and a poor offensive season but is a great framer and defender and has a 101 wRC+ against LHP for his career. Again, a perfect choice to pair with Bo, mentor him, and provide help against LHP. I know many people find Austin Hedges super attractive, I acknowledge he is very funny and seems like an awesome teammate… I just can’t handle him putting up another 40 wRC+ no matter how many fun things he does with his PitchCom or how many great memes he gives us.
Carlos Rodon, LHP, 29.2 years old, 2.25 FIP and 6.2 fWAR in 2022 – We can all dream about the Guardians signing Rodon. We can all remember the Zack Meisel rumor that they were in on him last offseason. But, I see zero way they get in on the amount of money Rodon is going to pull in this offseason coming off a 6 fWAR year. If they sign him, I will throw a party, and then we will know that Blitzer is going to bring a different kind of spending philosophy to the table.
Tyler Anderson, LHP, 32.9 years old, 3.31 FIP and 4 fWAR in 2022 – Anderson is more of a realistic option in my view because his track record of success is a bit shorter and he is a bit older, so he could be looking at 1-3 year deals, which would interest the Guardians. I still expect he’ll command more than they want to dish out in free agency, but those miniscule walk rates he puts up certainly are catnip to Guardians’ pitching folks.
Nathan Eovaldi, RHP, 32.8 years old, 3.46 xFIP and 1.4 fWAR in 2022 - Just take a look at 2021 Eovaldi. 2.79 FIP and 5 fWAR. If healthy, if optimized by a great team of pitching coaches, Eovaldi has #2 starter ceiling. Yes, there's risk, but personally, I'd love to see the Guardians pursue him for a 1-year deal.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, 30.2 years old, 3.65 FIP and 2.5 fWAR in 2022 - Walker is probably more like a #3 or #4 starter, but I could see him falling into the Guardians price range if the market gets backed up, and them thinking they can leverage his new found splitter into a good year or two.
Zach Eflin, RHP, 28.6 years old, 3.56 FIP and 1.4 fWAR in 2022 - Eflin was transitioned to a bullpen role after a knee injury, but I'd be interested if the Guardians could get something more out of him. Again, though, it would only be on a one-year deal, maybe one year and an option, and I suspect Eflin gets more.
Carlos Carrasco, RHP, 35.7 years old, 3.53 FIP and 2.4 fWAR in 2022 – Just put aside your rational brain for a minute and imagine both Carlos Santana and Carlos Carrasco joining this team for 2023 and helping this team on one more magical World Series run. You can’t deny it puts a tear in your eye. Carrasco had a very solid 2022, but did struggle with injuries. I imagine he’s looking at 1-year deal, which would appeal to Cleveland… but I suspect if they add a starting pitcher, they will look for someone with a little higher ceiling than what Cookie is able to offer at this point. However, if they bring him back, you won’t hear me complaining. I love the dude.
Ross Stripling, RHP, 32.11 years old, 3.11 FIP and 3.1 fWAR in 2022 – Again, to me, Stripling just seems like a very Cleveland pitcher. He’s likely a #3 at this point, but that career 8.33/2.13 K/BB/Per 9 says "You should be a Guardian at some point" to me. Also, you can’t rule out the Cleveland pitching folks getting a career year out of Stripling as they’ve done a few times with guys. He also might sign a one-year deal. Somehow, this one feels a little more feasible, perhaps because of his younger age, than Carrasco does.
Dream Offseason: Guardians sign Carlos Rodon and Jose Abreu, trade for Sean Murphy and David Bednar, win the World Series.
More Realistic But Still Super Exciting Offseason: Guardians trade for Pablo Lopez and sign Wil Myers and Christian Vazquez to 1-year deals.
Disappointing But Unsurprising Offseason: Guardians sign Mike Zuninio, and that’s it, but they extend 1-2 of Bieber, McKenzie, Quantrill, Gimenez, Kwan and Stephan, and then trade for Brandon Woodruff or Pablo Lopez at the July deadline.
What do you think? Let me know your top choices, under-the-radar choices, and expectations for the Guardians offseason.