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Guardians trade Nolan Jones to Rockies, Carlos Vargas to Diamondbacks

Plus some other Rule 5 draft-related roster moves

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Happy Rule 5 Draft Protection Day to those who celebrate. The Guardians, apparently, are one of those who do celebrate, because they made a bunch of moves right up until the 6 p.m. deadline.

First and foremost: the Guardians traded Nolan Jones to the Rockies in exchange for middle infielder Juan Brito. This isn’t much of a Rule 5 move for the Guardians, but the Rockies were left deciding whether or not to protect 21-year-old Brito from the upcoming draft. They opted to trade him to the Guards in exchange for an infielder/outfielder who has some major-league experience in Jones.

Jones, a one-time top prospect in the Cleveland organization and former second-round pick, debuted in 2022 with mixed results. He finished with a 93 wRC+, but more worryingly than that, he struck out in a third of his at-bats and didn’t look competitive in a lot of them. He finished his Guardians career with two home runs and a .244/.309/.372 slash in 28 games. There is obviously still some potential with his bat there, but he simply couldn’t break out anywhere with the Guards and if this is what they could get for him, it’s probably best to get something while they can.

We’ll have more on Brito in the future, but for now, know that the Guardians are adding yet another young middle infielder with excellent bat-to-ball skills. Here is a bit of what FanGraphs said about him prior to the 2022 season (before he hit a career-high 11 home runs, mind you).

The compact, switch-hitting Brito is a bat-driven prospect with terrific feel for contact from both sides of the plate. He’s only a 30-grade runner but is an average overall athlete with enough control to contort his body and make timely, accurate throws to first base even though he lacks defensive range.

Obviously, Cleveland added him to the 40-man roster ahead of the deadline to avoid exposure to the Rule 5 draft.

The Guardians also reportedly agreed on a deal with the Diamondbacks involving a pair of 23-year-old right-handed pitching prospects. Cleveland is acquiring Ross Carver and will send Carlos Vargas in return.

For those unaware, Vargas missed two years of professional pitching due to COVID wiping out the 2020 season and Tommy John surgery at the beginning of 2021. He returned midway through 2022 and struggled in Double-A (4.81 ERA, 4.44 BB/9, 24.1 IP), but had a solid ten innings of work with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers.

Carver, on the other hand, was just drafted last year after two years at Dallas Baptist University. The 6-foot-2 right-hander struck out 29% of the batters he faced in High-A this season before being promoted to Double-A. Despite being a reliever throughout college and 22 innings of Single-A last season, the D-Backs transitioned him to a starter in 2022. He features a fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup.

Mostly what this does for the Guardians is free up a roster spot, as the oft-injured Vargas was already on the 40-man to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft in 2020. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since being added.

In addition to the trades, the Guards also protected Angel Martinez and Joey Cantillo from the Rule 5 draft by adding them to the 40-man roster. To make room on the roster they designated Anthony Gose and Kirk McCarty for assignment.

Gose, a former outfielder turned relief pitcher, pitched in 22 games for the Guardians this season with a 4.71 ERA and a 30.4% strikeout rate. Unfortunately, he also carried a 15.2% walk rate and his season was cut short by Tommy John Surgery in September. He was expected to miss all of the 2023 season.