With their eyes on increasing one of baseball’s lowest payrolls, how will the Cleveland Guardians spend money this offseason?
By all accounts, the Cleveland Guardians are going to have plenty of money to spend this offseason. The team has indicated as much throughout the year, and the organization has been even more forthcoming in its offseason goals in its final wrap-up sessions with the local media. It’s always been known that the fan-less, COVID-shortened season put a huge dent in Cleveland’s financial plans, but now that the team is finally coming out of the darkness, the Cleveland Guardians should be ready to spend heading into 2022.
Here are four ways the Guardians could increase the payroll this offseason:
The Guardians Should Obviously Extend Jose Ramirez
The Dolan detractors will of course speak the loudest on this until it actually happens, but it’s not a pipe dream to think the team could extend beloved third baseman Jose Ramirez. The perennial MVP candidate had yet another MVP-esque campaign in 2021, hitting .266/.355/.538 with 36 home runs, 32 doubles, 27 stolen bases and 103 RBIs to go along with a 137 wRC+. And as everyone knows, Ramirez just so happens to also have the most team-friendly contract in baseball.
Ramirez currently has two team options for 2022 ($11 million) and 2023 ($13 million), which will obviously be picked up regardless. But as the Guardians embark on their complete rebranding, it would be smart to do it with a recognizable star who could very well play his entire career in Cleveland – a novelty Guardians fans just aren’t used to.
The Guardians Will Absolutely Address the Outfield
This is beyond a no-brainer. Despite the disappointing final 80-82 record, one of the most important things to come out of the 2021 season is some answers from what the Guardians currently have as outfield options. And the answer is… not much. Despite some prodigious home runs, Bradley Zimmer hit just .227 in 299 at-bats while striking out an incredible 35% of the time; he just doesn’t seem like an everyday outfielder. Oscar Mercado didn’t do much with his time in Cleveland either and the team doesn’t seem confident in Daniel Johnson whatsoever.
So with center field finally locked up with the acquisition of Myles Straw, the team will no doubt be looking at external options for one of the two corner outfield spots. With so much young talent waiting in the minor leagues, the Guardians could certainly swing a trade for a controllable outfielder, but they could also explore the free-agent market for a legitimate stopgap answer that will get them through the next few seasons as some prime outfield prospects make their ascent to Cleveland.
There are a number of notable players in their arbitration years, so the Guardians will be increasing their payroll simply by having to pay these increasing contracts. Amed Rosario, who became one of Cleveland’s most important hitters this season, will be in his first arbitration year and is expected to make around $5 million. Shane Bieber, Franmil Reyes, Josh Naylor, and Cal Quantrill are in arbitration as well, so those are no-brainers. Austin Hedges, Nick Wittgren, Harold Ramirez, Anthony Gose and Bradley Zimmer are also eligible, so there will be pay increases there should the Guardians want to move forward. Hedges, Ramirez and Gose seem like distinct possibilities, while Zimmer’s future with the team is very much up in the air.
The interesting thing here, though, is whether or not the Guardians pick up catcher Roberto Perez’s $7 million option. With the injuries he’s sustained over the past few seasons and his decreased production at the plate, no amount of defensive prowess or pitching staff wizardry will probably make it worth the team picking that up. So to be honest, the team will certainly spend on arbitration, but there’s no guarantee it actually increases the payroll – something the Guardians surely won’t mind.
Will the Guardians Once Again Test the Waters of a Shane Bieber Extension?
Speaking of Shane Bieber, if he is hell-bent on getting a Max Scherzer-esque contract in his 30s, it won’t be coming from the Guardians. But he might be rethinking his prospects following a 2021 season in which he missed most of the season due to a right shoulder strain.
If Bieber continues to pitch like the Cy Young version of Shane Bieber, there will no doubt be a team out there willing to give him a huge contract, but he might be thinking more about ensuring his long-term future now rather than betting on avoiding any more injuries that could hinder him moving forward. That’s 100% pure conjecture, but it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to hear the Guardians go to him in the offseason and gauge where he’s at. It’s doubtful a deal would happen, but crazier things have happened, right?
With a king’s ransom of young, controlled pitching and plenty of new talent coming up through the minors, the Guardians recognize their window to contention is once again opening, but that’s not really going to be the case if they don’t start spending some money. The team recognizes this and appears ready to do so – the only question is how they do it.
It should be an interesting first offseason for the newly minted Cleveland Guardians.