clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Making Sense of the Guardians’ Inactivity This Winter

Things aren’t going exactly as many Guardians fans planned

Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal Karen Schiely via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The offseason has not gone nearly as planned this year for much of the Guardians fanbase. Bally Sports is continuing to delay deadlines in their dispute over MLB broadcasting rights, the front office is relying on hit-or-miss acquisitions to fill in their gaping holes in the outfield (Estevan Florial and maybe Deyvison De Los Santos) and the team’s biggest signing is the returning catcher Austin Hedges. At the center of everything going on this winter, there is a shortage of spending for quality talent in the Guardians organization. And for this article, I will be trying to explain this winter slumber from the front office’s perspective.

There obviously was a lot to cover in the offseason for the Guardians. The historically bad outfield needed players to fill some holes, but it seems like they’re taking an approach similar to theirs when it came to the middle infield: Let their prospects duke it out for the remaining spots and hope a couple of them stick. The pitching staff needed some help as well and, surprisingly, the team did something uncharacteristic and looked outside their own organization for pieces. Fairly enough, their only big pitching staff acquisition was righty reliever Scott Barlow, but they also acquired Ben Lively to fill in the bottom of the rotation until prospects Joey Cantillo and Daniel Espino are ready to be called up to the bigs. But overall, there were still a great number of holes left to be filled.

This obviously left a lot to be desired for Guards fans, as they believe that this year could be when they make a huge run. More importantly, though, they believe that the future Hall of Famer third baseman Jose Ramirez is past the peak of his performance and will be exiting his prime soon. I can see this sentiment, as Ramirez is the biggest part to this offense and will be 32-years-old this year. He will go down as the best third baseman the team has ever had, and maybe even the best player in their history, perchance. His stellar first half of 2022 was tainted by a wrist injury that worsened his performance down the stretch of the season, and there could be a concern for even more injuries in the coming years. It could be best to commit to a run this year and try to capitalize on Ramirez’s prime but, in my opinion, doing so is very risky.

What I mean by that has to do with the current state of the team’s farm system. As of now, the Guardians still have not given legitimate chances to a great chunk of their top prospects. We have only begun to see the incoming wave of top offensive prospects last year when they called up Bo Naylor. We also saw Tanner Bibee, Logan T. Allen and Gavin Williams make their debuts and turn around the team’s injury-riddled starting rotation. Besides that, however, the Guardians have yet to give an actual chance to their top hitting prospects such as Brayan Rocchio, Gabriel Arias, Tyler Freeman, Juan Brito, George Valera, Johnathan Rodriguez and Chase DeLauter. Add on the recent acquisitions of Kyle Manzardo, Deyvison De Los Santos and Estevan Florial, and there are a lot of very strong candidates for these positions (SS/2B, DH/1B, CF, RF).

Additionally, there are not many good free agent candidates to fill those spots within our price range (especially considering the metaphorical embargo going on between Diamond Sports Group and the Guardians). They could have attacked trade targets such as Taylor Ward and, as much as I’d like to make that trade, Chris Antonetti is known to get every last drop of milk from the cow and acquire the best value he can get with his assets. If he doesn’t think that Ward’s value will equate to what he’s giving up in the trade, he won’t commit to it unless they discuss altering the deal. And even then, if Antonetti agrees to package some prospects for Ward (or any other trade target of his caliber), that’ll only fill one hole in the lineup. There are still three other holes that need an answer. It would really be best to pursue the trade market once the team has a better grasp on what they need after they let their prospects fight for these open spots.

Lastly, the value an acquisition would provide to the Guardians may only marginally make them better in comparison to the internal options, whose potential ceilings far outweigh those of any realistic external targets. Not only that, but if that marginal improvement happens, they’d still be projected to be in a tough fight with the Twins and now maybe the Tigers for the AL Central crown. There realistically isn’t much purpose to go after an external option when we’re not even sure if that would push the Guardians far past the competition and put them into a position to win the World Series. I get that many are tired of the whole “kicking the can down the road” mantra, but sometimes it is better to kick that can down the road than to address the problem at the wrong time.

As foreboding as it may seem, this offseason could really mean something better for the team. I’ve come to learn that Chris Antonetti always has a method to his madness. Obviously, not all of those methods work. But what is evident is the various risks and stakes of going down either path. The Guardians were “handcuffed” by the ongoing dispute concerning Bally Sports and now may only have the money to sign an extension for their star first baseman in Josh Naylor (hopefully). The team could really end up being worse off by looking for major league talent than letting their high-caliber prospects take the reins and present their cases to be that proven talent we’ve been looking for. I believe that there is so much less risk in giving these prospects a chance to be great than letting their potential die out as they ride the bench for a player that they could’ve ended up out-producing. Besides, 2025 seems like the ideal year for the Guardians to make a push, as they would have debuted most of their top prospects and the rookies from last year would have enough experience to do well in October. Plus, Jose would still likely be in the last few of his prime years by then. All in all, I do not think that this inactivity is as bad as many make it out to be. Better to capitalize on a real chance to win a World Series than try to speed up your clock, because that usually leads to years of non-contention.