The announcement of the Cleveland Indians becoming the Cleveland Guardians could mean the Tribe will be buyers leading into the 2021 season due to the business of sports.
With the trade deadline approaching the Cleveland Indians find themselves in a tricky position. Are they buyers or sellers? It seems odd to be a buyer based on the recent performances against the Rays and Astros, but technically the division is still in reach. The switch to the Cleveland Guardians makes me believe they are actually buyers, but for the 2022 season.
It’s frustrating to see your favorite players listed in rumors, or the few bright spots that may leave large holes to fill. Even more frustrating when you hear the Indians are going to cut payroll, but they’re already the lowest payroll in baseball, so how much more should they cut, and is this ever going to end?
On Friday, the Indians announced that in 2022 they will no longer be the Indians, and instead the Guardians. This announcement could be the signal that spending is coming, especially when you look at recent trends.
A new name means new stadium signage, but also, new uniforms and new merchandise to sell. Sports are about the teams, but the expensive items such as jerseys are about the players and the Guardians are going to make a big splash to entice some Guardian jerseys to be purchased.
The addition of a big name could happen as early as this week, or more likely during a more expensive free agency period for the team. The key here is ‘new’ players that will entice jersey sales. This could be a factor in why there are rumors on players that have no business ever being traded such as Jose Ramirez.
The large haul of prospects would be enticing, but for the team, its also about the business side. There is no package the team can receive that guarantees a player of the caliber of Jose Ramirez in the future. Yet you can find stars that the fans learn to get excited about and eventually buy jerseys and other merchandise of. The window for this group of players is still forming, and may not be this year or next.
Prospects take time to settle in. Let’s look at recent examples of teams making big changes, that also ‘coincidently’ corresponded to big player moves to attract fans. I’ll add, the Cleveland situation is unique, so we’ll focus on stadium and major uniform changes where ownership will spend a little more to get their new merchandise or stadiums heavily in circulation within their fanbases.
Recently the Texas Rangers built and anticipated opening a brand new stadium for the 2020 season. In anticipation of that, and to drive up ticket sales for a team that has struggled to contend, they added former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber to their ranks. Of course, COVID put a damper on that, but at least they got to use his bobbleheads this year when he returned with the New York Yankees (and no-hit them).
In 2017 the Braves reshaped their roster to be more competitive when they opened SunTrust Stadium. They added the likes of Brandon Phillips and Matt Kemp to their lineup. True, they may not be huge stars individually, but Matt Kemp once carried some name value and Brandon Phillips was a Gold Glove caliber infielder who helped fans see the team was stepping into a contender role as their young core would enter the league in that season.
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Then there is my personal favorite, and the most egregious case of ownership just playing with fans for business reasons, the Miami Marlins opened their current stadium in 2012. The Marlins looked to get fans in the stands by adding manager Ozzie Guillen, SP Mark Buehrle, SS Jose Reyes and more. That group didn’t even last a full season before their fire sale started.
These examples are simply to state that the future Guardians have business needs to field either a competitive or a star driven product for 2022. What they do in the current trade deadline will be telling on which path they take. A big multi-year addition, could be in the cards for this trade deadline.
Based solely on the lively reaction to the Guardians name, a big-time addition may just be what the doctor ordered to get fans back on positive vibes with this franchise and ownership group sooner than later.
So what big name addition will it take to get you to buy some Guardians merchandise? While I’ll wager the spending occurs in the next free agency season, the chess pieces will continue to move during the July 30th trade deadline.