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News and Notes: Paul Dolan Will Not Be Spending Money to Help Fix the Guardians This Offseason

News and Notes for Tuesday, December 5th, 2023

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MLB: AUG 19 Tigers at Guardians Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nothing is happening in terms of free agency and trades at MLB’s Winter Meetings in Nashville. For Guardians’ fans, the news of last night was an article from Zack Meisel of the Athletic on what he’s hearing at the Winter Meetings, including the following paragraph:

The club’s Opening Day payroll of about $89 million ranked 25th among the 30 teams last year. The 2024 figure is likely to look similar, according to industry sources granted, anonymity so they could speak freely.

Meisel reports that there may be some “wiggle room for marginal upgrades, but nothing substantial” because of the uncertainty with the Bally’s TV deal. Reminder: the Athletic reported that teams regularly borrow money to help with payroll, because the asset of owning a baseball team literally never depreciates. So, though folks like Terry Pluto have reported the Guardians’ TV income for 2024 may be more like $40 million than the $60 million they are owed by Bally Sports, the Dolans can absolutely afford to upgrade the power-hungry lineup of a team projected to be competitive in a weak AL Central with one, proven bat. But, instead, Meisel and other reporters are forced to conclude the team would have to trade their best projected pitcher in Shane Bieber, likely mostly for salary relief given his injury late last season, in order to afford a lower level free agent. OR, trade star closer Emmanuel Clase for the kind of pre-arb, cost-controlled talent that can help the team now without increasing the payroll.

You should be subscribing to the Athletic to read Meisel, so I don’t want to give away the whole article, but he also mentions the team’s reluctance to trade prospects. I’ll also note that the team pretty clearly suppressed Bo Naylor’s clock last season, so I suppose that while they apparently love guys like Kyle Manzardo, Chase DeLauter and Juan Brito, don’t be surprised if those players whom they are unwilling to deal for major league help also don’t come up to help the team until, coincidentally, the team isn’t at risk of losing a year of control (barring the kind of injuries and regression that forced the team to call up Tanner Bibee, Gavin Williams and Logan Allen early next year).

It’s disappointing to me that a 40% attendance rise in 2023 that got the Guardians to 22nd in MLB attendance likely isn’t going to be enough to get ownership to increase payroll EVEN into the top 20 teams of MLB to improve the major league club and capitalize on that momentum. And, again, I’m speaking of a trade for even a Taylor Ward-type, not even a signing of Teoscar Hernandez. But, after experiencing whatever rage or grief needed, it’s time to root for the guys who are on the team to breakout and lead the team to competitive baseball. I’m sure if attendance is somehow also strong in 2024 and the team IS competitive, the Dolans will ok mid-late season transactions to help shore up the roster as they usually do. The Twins are also apparently slashing payroll due to Regional Sports Network collapses, so there will still be an opportunity for a young team under a new manager and coaching staff to outperform projections and find their way into the playoffs whether or not the Dolans are pinching pennies.

This is how I would describe it: the Dolans are afraid of increasing payroll to $100 million. The Miami Freaking Marlins ran a $100 million payroll in 2023.

If it were up to me, I’d draft a starting pitcher who can also relieve for the Guardians in the Rule 5 draft tomorrow, Wednesday, December 6th at 1pm EST. Willie Hood of Next Year Cleveland put out a preview of the Rule 5, and the starting pitcher names who appeal to me on his list are: Ian Bedell- RHSP Cardinals, Taylor Dollard- RHSP Mariners, Shane Drohan- LHSP Red Sox and CJ Van Eyk- RHSP Blue Jays. I think all COULD be an improvement in the longman position for 2024 and offer some starting depth, but we will see.

Today, the MLB draft lottery is at 5:30pm EST on MLB Network. The Guardians have a 2% chance of getting the top pick, but are set to be top 10 and hopefully will sneak into the top five.

If, like me, you’re a little depressed about baseball today, you should listen to Vinnie Pasquitino’s interview with the Baseball Bar-B-Cast folks, Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman. It was fun and offered some good insight into the major league life.

Brayan Rocchio got a couple singles in the Venezualan Winter League again last night.