Let’s take a look at the Guardians 40-man roster headed into the 2023 offseason and see who’s likely to be here come Opening Day 2024.
Jose Ramirez - Thank God he’s ours.
Andres Gimenez - Let’s get away from the more contact-oriented approach we had this year, Andres, and hopefully move back more towards a 120 wRC+ than a 100 wRC+.
Tanner Bibee - Bibee looks like the staff ace entering 2024 right now.
Josh Naylor - A mainstay in the middle of the order and the clubhouse, I’d love to see the Guardians try to get an extension done with Naylz.
Bo Naylor - Getting an extension done with Bo should actually be even more a priority than getting one done with his older brother. Lock this future All-Star catcher down into his early thirties.
Steven Kwan - I’d revisit an extension with Kwan in the Spring, also, see if he’s a little more amenable after a step-back season. It would be great if the team could get Kwan to centerfield, but I’m not sure if that’s on the table.
Emmanuel Clase - Zero worries about Clase for the future.
Gavin Williams - I can see debates about which pitcher is better between Bibee and Williams being a popular topic for the future.
Triston McKenzie - It was great to see McKenzie make two major league starts before the season ended. It’s hard not to feel like his elbow is a ticking time-bomb, but here’s hoping he has a healthy offseason and comes into Spring Training ready to show himself to be an ace again.
Cal Quantrill - We finally got to see old, beat-the-FIP-allegations Quantrill in the second half of 2023. He looks like a solid #4 starter and a good #5 starter again.
Logan Allen - Allen certainly had the most up and down rookie season of the Bibee-Williams-Allen trio, but there’s still plenty to like here. He’d be the one of the three I’d most be willing to trade in a deal for a young, slugging outfielder, but I think that kind of deal is pretty unlikely to be reached.
Gabriel Arias - I think Arias has shown the team enough at the plate and in the field where he will be seen as the Opening Day shortstop for 2024. But, there will be a couple players in line behind him if he falters.
Hunter Gaddis - It’ll be interesting to see if Gaddis becomes a reliever, but I don’t see a team desperate to trade for him and he has enough value as a depth starter or reliever that I’d be very surprised to see him moved.
Sam Hentges - Hentges looked like 2022 Hentges to end the season. He’s a back-end of the pen mainstay.
Trevor Stephan - Stephan has some work to do to fix his issues in the offseason, but he’s extended and I’d be very surprised to see him traded.
Cody Morris - Morris, again, doesn’t have a lot of trade value and may be stretched out as a starter or moved into more of a long-man role, but I bet he’s here come Opening Day 2024.
David Fry - David Fry has a lot of roster value as a guy who can competently play a few positions. I’d like to see him moved, permanently, into the backup catcher role and have him work on perfecting his catching skills this offseason. Then, he can be leveraged with Bo as the regular starter into spots where he can play against LHP.
Likely to Stay:
Myles Straw - I want the Guardians to eat Straw’s contract but I do not expect they will. My best hope is that Straw had some sort of injury this season that limited his base-stealing and that an offseason of rest will heal it. The team absolutely must move him into a fifth outfielder/pinch-runner/defensive-replacement role and get him down to closer to 200 PA’s in a season, though.
Ramon Laureano - I would be surprised if Will Brennan and Ramon Laureano aren’t a platoon option in CF or RF for the Guardians in 2024. The team will add someone to help in whichever position they don’t play. Laureano will be used almost exclusively against LHP and Brennan against RHP, and that’s best.
Will Brennan - See above. Brennan is trying to overhaul his swing in the offseason. Here’s hoping it works because I don’t see the team trading him after a rough season and they won’t DFA him.
Enyel De Los Santos - I could see De Los Santos as a potential trade candidate if a team likes him. Otherwise, he’s a perfectly solid middle-reliever. Would be nice to move him out of the high leverage role by adding a proven commodity there, but that’s probably a pipe dream. I say this while being of the firm belief that this is the offseason, if any has ever existed, where the Dolans should open up the wallet and spend some significant cash, including on a guy like Reynaldo Lopez to shore up the pen.
Xzavion Curry - I love Curry because of his willingness to do whatever is asked of him. But, we all know his value is limited as a pitcher. I could see the team moving him as part of a deal to a team in need of pitching depth, but I’d bet he’s here and starting games in Columbus at the beginning of next season.
Eli Morgan - Eli Morgan is frustrating because when his mechanics get off, he gives up a ton of hard contact. But, he gave the team 67.2 innings with a 3.88 FIP this season. That’s more than adequate for a middle-reliever. He needs to work on that slider in the offseason some more because it’s the difference maker for him. When he’s got it as a weapon, he’s dominant. When he doesn’t, he gets rocked.
Nick Sandlin - I was about ready to give up on Sandlin this season and then he had an xFIP of 3.34 to end the last month of the season. He gave up way too many home runs this season, but we know that’s a volatile stat. If used as a guy to get a ground-ball off a right-handed hitter, he is extremely effective. I could see Sandlin as a guy another organization (like Tampa Bay) believes they can fix, but most likely he’ll be here as a 6th inning-type for 2024.
Joey Cantillo - As soon as Cantillo figures out how to not walk the planet, he’ll be in a major league rotation. That fact either keeps him on the Cleveland roster or makes him a part of a deal for a young outfielder.
Tim Herrin - I’m still a big believer in Herrin. I hope the season of rough experience becomes a launching board for him to take the next steps to being an effective lefty relief arm.
George Valera - There were some good signs with Valera in the second half, but he ended the season in a bit of a slump. He said in an interview that his wrist was still not 100%, so hopefully, some rest gets it to a good place and he can come win an outfielder job with a strong spring in Arizona and Columbus.
Jhonkensy Noel - Noel was one of the youngest players in Triple-A all season. He showed some promise but has more work to do to earn a look in the bigs. Hopefully, 2024 will be the year he takes the leap but I’d surprised if he doesn’t get the continued chance to do so with the Clippers.
Kole Calhoun - Thanks for the memories, Kole! Enjoy a likely retirement.
Cam Gallagher - Gallagher returning would set Guardians’ online talk ablaze like nothing else. The worst hitter I’ve ever seen put on the Cleveland uniform.
Lucas Giolito - I suspect Giolito will find a way to be effective again. I can’t see it happening in Cleveland.
Likely to Leave:
James Karinchak - He can’t stop walking people, he can’t hold runners, and every time I heard Tito or Tom Hamilton talk about him, they sounded extremely frustrated. So, my guess is the Guardians find someone who wants to trade for him in a small deal.
Reynaldo Lopez - I would love for Lopez to make his way back to Cleveland in 2024. I can’t imagine the team actually spending what it would take to keep him. Prove me wrong for once, Dolan.
Michael Kelly - Somehow, Kelly stuck on the roster for the entire season. I think the Guardians will add a relief arm to replace him at some point. He certainly isn’t someone who would demand a 40-spot if they needed to open one up.
Oscar Gonzalez - Maybe I’ll be surprised, but I think the Guardians will move on from Gonzalez with Johnny Rodriguez likely a better version of him ready for a shot at a big league roster spot. Gonzalez doesn’t seem capable of laying off enough bad pitches to be a major league starter, but he does plan to work with Jose Ramirez in the offseason. I hope for the best for him, that’s for sure.
Potential Trade Candidates:
Shane Bieber - Personally, I suspect Bieber will be in Cleveland until the 2024 trade deadline. But, I, also, obviously would not be at all shocked to see him as part of a Kluber-like deal to some unsuspecting team.
Jose Tena - Tena got a nice little look on the major league roster after lighting it up in Columbus. He’s definitely the kind of player I could see another team liking a lot in a trade package, but also the kind of player Cleveland clearly values.
Juan Brito - The Guardians could make us all feel better about the Nolan Jones trade by either moving Juan Brito to left field while playing Kwan in center, OR by using Brito as a trade chip as part of a deal to get a major league outfielder.
Brayan Rocchio - I’m still a Rocchio believer, but since I do think the organization prefers Arias, Rocchio is an obvious choice to be a fairly significant trade piece. We just better hope that another organization doesn’t immediately unlock his power he’s been missing since Double-A.
Tyler Freeman - I hope Freeman works on his outfield abilities so he can be a true super utility guy in Cleveland. It was nice to see him show a little pop to end the year. I suspect he’s a lock on the bench for the team, but if another team views him as a starter, I could definitely see him being traded,
Angel Martinez - Any middle-infielder on the 40 is a potential trade piece, with Martinez a bit behind the rest of these choices in proven value. Still an interesting player, of course, so I would not be at all surprised to see him stick.
Likely to be Protected in the Rule 5 Draft:
Johnathan Rodriguez - There are still questions with Johnny Rodriguez’s chase rate, but he’s shown enough power and ability to take a walk to make him a shoo-in as a guy to be added to the 40-man, in my humble opinion, especially as a right-handed hitting outfielder.
Daniel Espino - Espino WILL be protected. Here’s hoping he comes back healthy in June.
Might be Protected in the Rule 5 Draft:
Cade Smith - Smith has some great stuff out of the pen but has struggled to be consistent. I could see the Guardians adding him to the 40-man, but also could see them risking him getting plucked.
Ethan Hankins - Hankins would be such a rough guy to have on a major league roster that I have trouble imagining him getting picked in the Rule 5. But, there were some positive signs in his long-awaited return to game action, so him being added isn’t completely off the table.
Aaron Bracho - After the most disappointing season a propect could have in 2022, Bracho had a 115 wRC+ in the minors in 2023. I don’t think that’s quite enough to earn him a 40-man spot, but, I suppose if the Guardians somehow trade 4 middle-infielders before December, it could be a possibility.
Potential Outside Additions:
I wrote a fairly extensive article about some potential targets for this offseason. I would keep an eye, especially, on right-handed outfielders like Taylor Ward, Teoscar Hernandez and Jorge Soler, myself. But, I wouldn’t rule out a splashy move for someone who could play centerfield, which I think is the Guardians’ biggest need.
I also imagine they will find some Enyel De Los Santos-types via waiver wires or small trades, but those folks may come here on minor-league deals, initially. I do think they will sign a veteran reliever to a one-year deal, perhaps that long-speculated deal with an Andrew Chafin.
Even with the two Rule-5 additions and keeping Karinchak and Gonzalez, the roster is only at 38, so the roster crunch is a thing of the past for now. Here’s hoping the team has some notable signings/trades on the docket to make the 40 players they have a more exciting group for fans to root on in 2024.