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One Under-the-Radar Trade for the Cleveland Guardians

One trade might be too much to ask but here goes

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Last week, I offered a list of potential trade targets for the Guardians that wouldn’t break the bank. However, I left one potentially interesting name off the list in the Angels’ Brandon Drury.

Since Opening Day 2021, Brandon Drury, a 31 year old right-handed hitting IF/OF has a 119 wRC+, averaging about 20 homers a year with a 24.1/5.6 K/BB%. In that time period, Drury has also crushed left-handed pitching at a 140 wRC+ rate (111 vs RHP in the same period). Drury is under team-control for $8.5 million for 2024 and a free-agent in 2025.

I imagine this seems pretty attractive at the moment, so what’s the fly in the ointment? Well, it’s mostly defensive positioning. Drury played 56 innings in the outfield in 2021 and has been pretty cemented to first and second base since then. In 404 career innings in right-field, Drury has -7 DRS and -1 OAA. So, to be honest, this deal depends on Drury being at least THAT good (i.e. below average but not terribly so) in a corner outfield spot, despite not being out there in the past two seasons.

If the Guardians acquired Drury, it would be a sign to me that they would move Steven Kwan to centerfield, put Drury in left-field and have the Will Brennan/Ramon Laureano platoon start out with first chance to handle right-field, with George Valera, Johnny Rodriguez, Jhonkensy Noel, Anthony Rivas and maybe Tyler Freeman or Juan Brito position-changed lined up to fill in if one of them struggle.

Drury has averaged about 130 games over the past two years, so I think some load management would be in order, allowing the Guardians to get whatever left-handed outfielder they choose to carry some AB’s in left-field against RHP for Drury.

In my scenario, the Angels would send roughly $3 million to the Guardians for a better return, netting them something like Angel Martinez, IF, and Parker Messick, LHP. I think the Angels would be crazy not to make that deal, and it would be a chance for the Guardians to demonstrate some urgency and willingness to win in 2024 while not giving up their top prospects. Obviously, the goal would be to have the Angels take one of our many middle-infield prospects, so you can choose which one you’d like to include here, but for Baseball Trade Values and its (admittedly limited) values, Martinez lines up the best in my scenario.

Additionally, according to a trustworthy source, the Guardians were “inches away” from acquiring Drury in a trade in 2022, so there is past interest from the team there. Drury does give you some flexibility in case of injuries/breakouts to slot in at first or second base if needed.

The resulting lineup looks viable to me, especially against LHP:

Kwan - CF
Jose - 3B
Manzardo - 1B/DH
Josh Naylor - DH/1B
Drury - LF
Bo Naylor - C
Laureano/Brennan - RF
Gimenez - 2B
Arias/Rocchio/Freeman - SS

The above deal isn’t life-changing, but it is the kind of thing I expect from the Guardians this offseason. Raise your roster’s hitting floor, even if you don’t feel you have the resources to dramatically improve it.