The Guardians took a controllable, youthful roster from a surprising 2022 squad during the winter and quickly addressed their two most pressing needs.
With these two major items on their to-do list crossed off, the question is what moves, if any, will follow as spring approaches as the Guardians hope to make a deeper run in October 2023 with a roster that is largely now a year older and a year more experienced.
The Guardians only had two glaring question marks: the designated hitter and the catcher. They had to rely on Owen Miller (since dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for a player to be named later or in cash) and Will Brennan (whose team is high for the long term) in the playoffs before Josh Naylor stepped up. ankle injury. And the team moved on from catchers Austin Hedges (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Luke Maile (Cincinnati Reds).
Josh Bell and Mike Zunino meet the immediate needs of the Guardians roster
Josh Bell (a two-year, $33 million deal that includes a player ban after 2023) will manage a day-to-day role between DH and first base with Naylor, who could also see time in the right field now that he’s a additional year removed from major ankle surgery. President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti pointed to the expectation of increased spending flexibility soon after the playoffs ended for the Guardians, and much of that ended up being directed at Bell, adding a midrange to range hitter.
Mike Zunino ($6 million for 2023) will take on the role of starting receiver with Bo Naylor waiting in the wings to return to the long-term job. Zunino appears to be a significant offensive improvement over Hedges and Maile while also being an above average defensive receiver (though not elite like Hedges), provided he is fully recovered and able to produce after his 2022 season ended with surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.
What’s going on with Amed Rosario and how some year-old veterans now fit the Guardians’ plans
The Guardians could approach the end of their rotation through a trade, and just about every candidate is always a candidate at some point (often the trade deadline in July) to bolster the bullpen. And, as has been the case for some time, Amed Rosario remains one of the top trade candidates given that he is in his final year of arbitration eligibility and may be a free agent at the end of his term. the 2023 season.
But the Guardians’ situation at shortstop — and how Rosario fits into the team’s short- and long-term plans — is a bit more nuanced than it was a year ago, even though he remained one of the few players not under long-term contract. control.
The Guardians are full of talented prospects who can play shortstop. In addition to Andres Gimenez cementing himself in their long-term future (he can stay at second base or move to shortstop at any time), Tyler Freeman, Brayan Rocchio, Gabriel Arias, Juan Brito and Jose Tena are all on the 40-man list. Brito and Tena are still a ways away from the majors (Tena being closer than Brito), but Rocchio is close to being big league ready and Freeman and Arias have already made their major league debuts.
If Cleveland completes a trade of any kind, it’s possible that one or more of those names could be included, as it remains the largest surplus in the organization.
The Guardians knew they could struggle in 2023 (and beyond). So while they’re flush with the youngsters knocking on the door, that doesn’t mean the team wants to put everything on their shoulders as soon as they cross over and join the majors. That means year-old veterans can make sense, as is the case with Rosario and the plethora of shortstop options behind him, even if it means getting nothing in return before heading to free agency.
This is also the case at receiver, with Zunino reducing the need for Naylor to handle all catching responsibilities upfront.
Guardians’ shift to 2023 playoff contenders makes Amed Rosario’s situation more nuanced
If the Guardians had taken a step back in 2022, and several things at the major and minor league levels had gone wrong, it would make a lot more sense to treat Rosario for whatever Cleveland can get for him now. And without the goal of wrestling, it would be easier to treat Rosario as a more valuable player to a competitor and sign provisional shortstop in the open market if they weren’t ready to start the service clocks.
Except, of all the contenders who could use Rosario to help them win now, the Guardians top the list. Rosario has put together 2.4 fWAR back-to-back seasons, making it not only a valuable, but perhaps more importantly, stable piece of programming, even to the point that Jose Ramirez campaigned for the Guardians sign him long-term. – extension of duration.
And with players like Rocchio, Freeman and others ready or close to it, keeping Rosario in the fold (unless a team overwhelms Cleveland with value) makes sense to both try to fight for a World Series in 2023 while easing the burden on young players to produce right away at the major league level, even though that exact event was a major factor in winning 92 games and the American League Central last summer.
This youth and internal options give Guardians the flexibility to complete a trade if the right opportunity presents itself, but it also reduces their need to do so without recouping the maximum value. Nothing should be forced, and while the team still wants to put themselves in a better position for the long road, the opportunity to win now could keep Rosario in place.
Ryan Lewis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the Guardians at www.beaconjournal.com/sports/cleveland-guardians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.