Cleveland Guardians: What Cleveland needs going into 2022

Cleveland Guardians, Bobby Bradley

Bobby Bradley #44 of the Cleveland Indians / Cleveland Guardians (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Potential internal moves for the Cleveland Guardians going into 2022

Cleveland met the exception that they would finish second in the division, but they still had a disappointing season in 2021, finishing 80-82. They were 13 games behind the American League Central champion Chicago White Sox. In the Wild Card race, they finished in sixth place and were 12 games out.

Cleveland ranked 18th in runs scored with 719 and they were no-hit an astounding three times, and that doesn’t include the seven-innings games. They ranked 20th in OPS which was 711. The offense being a problem is hardly a surprise, but to see them hit that poorly was shocking.

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Jose Ramírez did his part, hitting 36 home runs and driving in over 100 runs in a 7 WAR season, but it’s no secret he doesn’t have much offensive help. Franmil Reyes hit 30 home runs in just over 400 at-bats and he will be another building block for this team going forward. Cleveland can’t even entertain the idea of trading Jose Ramirez or Reyes. The first move they need to make is to extend Ramirez and make sure he never leaves Cleveland.

As I explained in my previous article, Ramirez’s contract is the biggest bargain in baseball. It’s time for Cleveland to reward his play and pay him handsomely. They should offer him an extension of six years and $150 million.

Cleveland needs to get the offense on this team especially in the outfield, but they can use an upgrade at almost every position. I know that’s unrealistic due to financial restraints, but they have to make their best attempt to improve this offense. If they don’t it will be a .500 finish in 2022 for the Cleveland Guardians

The pitching continues to be elite despite the fact their ace Shane Bieber only pitched half of the season due to injury. Bieber made 16 starts and pitched 126 innings with an ERA just over three and 134 strikeouts. He is another guy that they absolutely can not trade. He needs to be another building block for the Cleveland Guardians.

At 26-years old he can lead this team for years to come. He’s very affordable and he isn’t set to hit free agency until the year 2025. This Cleveland Guardians team is not too far away and it shouldn’t be completely dismantled.

This starting rotation struggled without Bieber, finishing 18th in ERA with a 4.34. Aaron Civale had a solid season with an ERA under four. Tristian McKenzie showed great promise towards the end. Cal Quantrill enjoyed a break-out season with an ERA under three and 121 strikeouts. Plesac missed 10 starts and was up-and-down with an ERA of 4.67. The bullpen was elite, for the most part, as well as sixth with an ERA of 3.74 as a unit.

The pen was led by closer Emmanuel Clase who logged 24 saves with an impressive ERA of 1.49. He had 74 strikeouts in 69 innings. James Karinchak got off to an incredible start, but once MLB cracked down on the sticky stuff, he collapsed. His ERA was over six from June to August, but he rebounded strongly to end the season and they need to make sure he’s fixed going into next season.

Cleveland needs to be aggressive in free agency and add two to three impact bats. They could also use another starting pitcher and possibly a bullpen arm. Payroll has been cut significantly in recent years and is now all the way down to $50 million. I think they should start by declining the $7 million option on catcher Roberto Perez. I understand he brings great leadership and defense, but his OPS was under 600.

Cleveland’s catching situation is a nightmare Austin Hedges was no better as he also had an OPS under 600. They should make a run at Mike Zunino or Tucker Barnhart if their options are declined. For outfield help, Nick Castellanos should be at the top of their list if he opts out. I know the money will most likely come in the way, but he would fix so many of the offensive problems for the Cleveland Guardians. More realistic options could be Michael Conforto, Jorge Soler, and Mark Canha. If they could even manage to sign two of those lower-tier players that could go a long way.

In terms of the pitching front, Jon Gray could be a very nice pick-up. He would also benefit from getting out of Coors Field. Alex Cobb could be a nice buy-low option for them as he enjoyed a bounce-back season with the Angels. Eduardo Rodriguez could also make some sense even though he’s coming off of a down season.

If they want to enforce their bullpen, Aaron Loup and Ryan Tapera are great options. Rafael Dolis had a really bad year, but he could be a nice buy-low candidate. Cleveland should also explore cost-efficient trades to acquire controllable young offensive players with upside.  They have to close the gap between the White Sox and the rest of the American League. Let’s see what they end up doing!