The primary reason I'm disappointed with the Guardians failure to make any significant moves in the 2022 trade deadline is that the team and its spokespeople have emphasized to us that when they have a chance at a playoff berth, they will expend resources to shore up the roster. Catcher and starting pitcher needed shoring up, and neither were an area where adding a player would have "muddied the waters." Yes, I'm sure they looked at upgrades, including Murphy and Mahle, and maybe guys like Drury and Contreras. But, in the end, it was just Ian Hamilton, which was a decent piece, but just a bullpen arm for 2023 at best. That's why their playoff odds went down by 9%, with the Twins improving. Disappointing, but nothing I can do about it now.
Many are concerned about the Rule 5 deadline and the 40-man roster crunch. I think those concerns are overstated, but not insignificant. What it currently means is that guys like Richie Palacios may get traded for lesser returns than had they been included in a more significant deal this July/August. That isn't the end of the world. The main concern I have is that we would not enter 2023 with about a dozen guys on the 40-man with zero major league experience. As we've seen this year, that's not a great way to give yourself the flexibility you need or maintain a level of consistent play.
So, with that said, here are guys currently on the 40-man whom I would not expect to be there on Opening Day 2023:
Kirk McCarty - He may have value as LHRP, so would not be shocked to see him traded or moved to the pen, but lean toward a DFA (considering he was already DFA'd multiple times this season)
Zach Plesac - I believe they'll find a willing taker and free his innings up for the next wave of arms/a trade acquisition
Bryan Shaw - Please, God
Luke Maile - I don't think he'll last 2022 without a DFA
Austin Hedges - I believe Bo Naylor gets called up before the year ends and spends some time with Hedges.
Amed Rosario - I believe he will be traded. Only chance he doesn't is if there's a possibility he could play every IF position... and, even if that is true, Freeman and Miller are cheaper options, there. Rosario is obviously a great culture guy and showing the ability to grow. Not opposed to keeping him, but I think someone offers something they like for him, probably in December-January after guys like Correa and Turner sign. I would actually prefer the team trade Owen Miller and keep Amed, but we will see.
Jose Tena - You can't have this many IF's on the roster, not with Angel Martinez needing to be added. Tena gets traded.
Richie Palacios - Some are saying he is really a 2Bman, which they don't have room for. Some are saying he's a LF/DH, which they also don't have room for. He is also kind of a poor man's Kwan as a hitter, and we have Brennan behind him as well. I think he might get DFA'd, then traded.
Franmil Reyes - May get non-tendered, which is crazy. I'd hope he comes back in September and shows he's made some needed changes, but then gets traded.
This gives them the ability to add Battenfield, Brennan, Cantillo, Curry, Gaddis, Martinez and Bo Naylor with ease.
Without any outside additions, the lineup, rotation and bullpen become, from Opening Day, in my perfect world:
1. Kwan - CF
2. Jones - 1B/RF
3. JRam - 3B
4. Josh Naylor - DH/1B
5. Valera - LF
6. Gonzalez/Benson - RF
7. Gimenez - SS
8. Bo Naylor - C
9. Freeman - 2B
IF - Owen Miller
IF/OF - Outside Addition or Tyler Freeman if they keep Amed.
OF - Straw
C - Outside Addition
2. De Los Santos
I think you can see the three areas where an outside addition would make the most sense. They remain: an experienced ML catcher who can put up an 80 wRC+ or better, a RH hitter with SLG who can play multiple IF/OF positions, and another starting pitcher.
Out of all those, I'm most confident they add the former. I wonder about Christian Vazquez in a 1-3 year free agent deal. Vazquez will be 32, has a career 85 wRC+, and has been an above average framer his whole career. The problem is that Vazquez might get offers from somewhere he was guaranteed to be a starter. Otherwise, he'd be a great RH-hitting pairing for Bo, and give you depth so that you don't have to go into the season with Lavastida and Bo as your only options. I'd also be on the lookout, again, for guys like Donny Sands and Rafael Marchan, who are stuck at Triple-A and blocked in their organizations but could provide value as ML catchers. Jonah Heim would also be an interesting name to pursue in a deal. And, of course, they could still revisit Sean Murphy and look at getting Murphy and/or Naylor AB's at DH/1B/LF.
There will be a lot of options for a RH hitter who can play some IF/OF. What about a trade for Rhys Hoskins (admittedly a terrible defender), Christian Walker, or Connor Joe? Josh Bell seems set for an expensive deal, but, as a first baseman, it wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility, and he's even played some LF without embarrassing himself. Could get in on Brandon Drury who would seem to be expensive coming off a career year, or Trey Mancini in free agency, also.
The Guardians don't often get into the free agent pitching market, but, man, there are some names there who might make sense on short-term deals, from Chris Bassitt (if he declines his option), to Wade Miley, to Sean Manaea, to Martin Perez. All seem like pitchers you could sign to 1-2 year deals and give yourself a little breathing room with your prospects coming up. And, then, of course, there are the usual options you might be able to pry loose in a trade in the oft-mentioned Pablo Lopez. My favorite option is to try to replenish the Padres' farm system a little and get Blake Snell from them. And, heck, it's dangerous, but what about calling on our good friends the Rays to see how they're valuing Tyler Glasnow a year off of Tommy John?
There are some options out there, and while it is very frustrating to constantly think the Guardians are going to use some of these prospects to get ML help and get let down again and again, I do have confidence that they are going to try to enter next year with a more fully-formed roster. Let me know what you think in the comments below!