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Assessing the Guardians’ Future Rotation

The Guardians may have a short-term minor league pitching depth problem

MLB: Texas Rangers at Cleveland Guardians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

A friend came to me around two weeks ago and talked to me about the Guardians’ future roster. While we were discussing, he brought up a very valid point that we may be seeing a drought in terms of league-ready starting pitching talent over the next year or two. And for better or worse, I agree with him. The Guardians may be in a pit of trouble next year if they don’t play their cards right and maintain a deep bullpen.

As it stands right now, the Opening Day rotation is shaping out to be:

  • Shane Bieber
  • Triston McKenzie
  • Tanner Bibee
  • Gavin Williams
  • Logan T. Allen

At face value, this rotation is very deep already. But it is not until you dig deeper into the likely possibilities where you will find some very valid concerns. I am not going to criticize Allen, but Logan has been muddying the line between a reliable starter or just a spot starter at best. I am not totally sold on him just yet, but there is plenty of time. Triston McKenzie is also amazing and maybe even a Cy Young Award contender if he stays healthy, but that is a huge “if.” McKenzie has been dealing with a multitude of injuries over the last couple years, and it got much worse in 2023 with both shoulder and elbow issues. Combined, those really warrant some discussions as to whether he can be relied on to stay healthy and dominate or not. Lastly, Shane Bieber has sparked a lot of speculation on whether or not he will be dealt before Opening Day. My bet is that we will not trade him, but anything can happen, and we need to prepare for the worst in these scenarios.

This brings me to my next point: In our minor league system, we do not have many candidates, if any at all, to be a reliable next man up. Joey Cantillo is still working on control issues in AAA Columbus, as he posted a 4.64 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, and a 5.29 FIP. The prodigy Daniel Espino is currently recovering from right shoulder surgery performed back in May. He could get healthy and become the leader of the rotation we all hoped he’d be, but it is just too hard to bank on that. We only have familiar faces such as Hunter Gaddis and Xzavion Curry who may be able to take up the role. Maybe Will Dion could progress quickly and make a good impression, but again, I am not relying on this to happen at all. Nonetheless, if two out of three of those scenarios happen where we lose a pitcher, or one other regresses by a large portion, we may have to fight from behind every 4 or 5 games. It is a situation that needs to be looked over, and the organization needs to be able to find some answers before they possibly undergo massive struggles down the stretch of the season.

Now, there are some ways to mend this possibly impending epidemic. The Guardians have a multitude of prospects to deal from and receive a solid pitcher. I would entertain the idea of spending low to get a low-risk, high-reward type of pitcher like Quinn Priester. The only drawback of that, however, is of course the possibility that Priester is really the pitcher that his Major League stat line depicted (7.74 ERA, 6.74 FIP, 5.31 SIERA in 10 games). The Guards could possibly aim for a pitcher like Mackenzie Gore, who posts a respectable stat line of 4.42 ERA and 4.11 xFIP. Personally, though, I do not think that testing the pitcher trade market would make the most sense, unless a deal perfectly lines up for us. I would much rather look at the free agent market and sign a pitcher or two on a short-term deal.

I would be on board with bringing someone like Julio Teheran here. Julio doesn’t strike out that many hitters, but his walk rate this year was the second lowest of his 13-year career, and his ERA (4.40) and WHIP (1.13) are enough for me to see what he’s got. Wade Miley might be another option, as he offers almost the same as Teheran does, but his projected market value exceeds Julio’s by around $2 million, according to Spotrac. Now, this may be the delusional fan side of me, but lastly, I do sort of like the idea of giving Noah Syndergaard one more chance to prove himself. His huge problem the whole time with us was him not being able to adjust to the long ball, and if he can this time around, he could be a great option in the back end of the rotation. An entire spring training and offseason of work with the Guardians pitching dev staff is very different than trying to adjust on the fly in August too. There are plenty more options, but these are the ones that stood out to me most, and if I missed any that would be better candidates, please let me know in the comments. With all that being said, I do think we would get the most bang for our buck in Julio Teheran, considering his projected market value and the stat line depiction of him.

Knowing the Guardians’ front office, I am sure they understand that there may be a talent shortage at the starting pitcher position if things were to take a very wrong turn for us. I also trust that they will make the right budget choices and understand what they could get with the money that they have to spend. What I would not like for the Guardians front office to do is to stand pat and rely on a bunch of things to go right for them. Cleveland is in a very weak division, but it will be very hard to get out of it if they had to keep up with an offense like the Twins’ with a depleted rotation, just like it was this year. Even if they went after less-sought for pieces, at least they will be acquiring reasonable depth to fill in once it goes wrong. Realistically, we do not need much action in the SP market, but we still desperately need to explore the possibilities to add depth. The team is going to be very competitive within the next couple years, so it is imperative that we execute well on the chance that we have here.