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A Preview to the League Winter Meetings

Just running down what will happen and what still needs to be addressed

MLB: Cleveland Guardians-Press Conference Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Winter Meetings are just a day away, and most league executives and office members are making their way to Nashville as they join to talk business. Of course, the Guardians will be there, looking to address the different possibilities of adding talent to their roster. Not only that, but the Rule 5 Draft and the Draft Lottery will be taking place. There is sure to be a lot going on during these next couple days, so let’s just cover what really needs to be done to better the team for the future.

What Holes Need to Be Filled?

As you would’ve guessed, the Guardians are in dire need for an outfield bat with some power. Being a team that hasn’t had a single (primary) outfielder break over 25 long balls in more than a decade, it is clear to see what the team has severely lacked as of late. I covered some potential outfield trade targets for the Guardians to pursue in an earlier article, such as Anthony Santander, Austin Hays, and Taylor Ward. But I would like to add a few new, ambitious names to that list: Lars Nootbaar, Heston Kjerstad, Randy Arozarena, and maybe Jordan Walker. Since Emmanuel Clase was recently considered for the trading block, I think that we could get a very prestigious player with the premier, controllable closer.

Funnily enough, I also made an article just last week about some potential rotation issues looming for the Guards. At surface level, things look great for the team’s starting 5. But, considering the various trade rumors, injury concerns, and a largely vacant AAA rotation, it would be very wise for the Guardians to make a move for a reliable back-end starter that could be the next man up if we lose someone.

As for the bullpen, we definitely need some help in the reliever department. Especially if the Clase rumors turn out to be true and he is shopped, it should be imperative that we seek out bullpen depth. We will be receiving a bit from the minors in Andrew Walters and Franco Aleman, but if we could maybe add a reliable middle relief pitcher (or maybe a setup man for Trevor Stephan/Scott Barlow?), that could provide the pitching staff a lot of length and versatility as the game moves into the late innings.

Possbile Trade Assets?

Since the Guardians will most likely find profit out of the trade market, they need to choose which players they believe fit their future plans and which do not. In my opinion, the first choice should always come from a position at which there is a surplus. For us, that surplus is in the middle infield. Generally speaking, any middle infielder besides Andres Gimenez could be up for trade: Brayan Rocchio, Gabriel Arias, Tyler Freeman, Angel Martinez, Jose Tena, and maybe even Juan Brito. I’d assume we will deal from 2 or 3 of these players and keep the leftovers. Besides that, pitchers like Shane Bieber and the aforementioned Emmanuel Clase have been involved in some deep trade speculation lately. Those two can more than likely net us one of those premier outfielders I mentioned earlier. You could also argue the possibility of the team including one of George Valera, Johnathan Rodriguez, Jhonkensy Noel, or Will Brennan in a package for a bigger return. If the Guardians could find a way to deal Myles Straw and open up a spot for one of the team’s outfield prospects, that would help a great deal as well.

What Else is Happening?

Besides trade and contract negotiations, the Winter Meetings are home to the Rule 5 Draft, where the Guardians could pick up some under-the-radar prospects. For those who don’t know, the Rule 5 Draft is essentially a draft where prospects could be available to be taken by another team if they’ve spent too much time without being added to a 40-man roster. That means that the Guardians have some prospects eligible for the Rule 5 as well. Besides Daniel Espino and Cade Smith, you can find the full list of Rule 5 eligible players down below.

I would guess that some teams will have their eyes on some of the Guardians’ Rule 5 eligible players. Two names that really stand out are RHP Tanner Burns and middle infielder Aaron Bracho, both of whom have had respectable stat lines with a chance to become solid prospects. I would also consider the once-revered pitching prospect Ethan Hankins as a dark horse candidate. Although he has had some elbow problems, getting Tommy John surgery in 2021, I do think that he could warrant a bit of consideration, as he has a great overall pitch arsenal with a wicked fastball.

As for potential candidates for the Guardians to consider, I have a couple in mind: OF Hudson Haskin, 3B Deyvison De Los Santos, and 1B/OF Wilfred Veras. Although he is 24 years old, Haskin has done fairly well in the high levels of the minors. In AAA Norfolk this year, Haskin slashed .268/.368/.463, giving him a .195 ISO. Acquiring him in the Rule 5 could give us a little bit of depth. However, I am more interested in Deyvison De Los Santos, as he has the most pop in the group. His power is graded at 65 by MLB Pipeline, and is only 20 years old. Pipeline also has De Los Santos as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ number 5 prospect, so it can be easily plausible that he has a lot of potential in his bat. His first half of the 2023 season in AA Hodgetown was all but disappointing, but after spending a couple weeks working in Arizona, he came back and soared. In 50 games, he slashed .312/.333/.580 while posting a 132 wRC+. Even though he may have some walk and fielding issues, I think we’d absolutely have to pick him up if he falls to us. If he doesn’t, I do think someone like Wilfred Veras might be a solid alternative. Also being 20 years old, Veras does share a similar hitting archetype with De Los Santos. Being a plus-plus power hitter with familiar metrics and discipline numbers, Veras could be that alternative option if Deyvison doesn’t fall to us. I didn’t do too much digging into the pitchers’ side of things, but I will note that 21-year-old Angel Bastardo could be a solid depth piece.

The MLB Draft Lottery is also being held during the Winter Meetings. The Guardians do hold a pretty big stake in this, having the 9th best chance to land the 1st overall pick in the 2024 MLB Draft. It is very possible that the Guards could end up in the top 5, but only time will tell about that. Until then, there is not much to say about that beyond potential draft options.

Final Words

This could be a very pivotal couple days for the Cleveland Guardians’ future, as they have many pieces in place to do something big. Maybe things could line up perfectly for the team, but I will say that there is a lot that could be discussed, whether that be within trade talks, Rule 5 picks, or Draft candidates. I am personally very excited to see what is in store for us and I look forward to how we look after the meetings (and of course the rest of the offseason)!