Guardians’ goals: What should we expect from Cleveland this season?

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – MAY 01: Steven Kwan #38 of the Cleveland Guardians bats against the Oakland Athletics in the top of the second inning at RingCentral Coliseum on May 01, 2022 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The Guardians have been an extreme up-and-down team this season, so what can we expect from them the rest of the way?

Sometimes, it’s hard to describe what the Cleveland Guardians are up to.

Are they in a rebuild period? Is their championship window at least slightly ajar? Are they simply rolling the dice?

The Guardians have left us clues. Paul Hoynes of reported that the team sought both Matt Olson and Jesse Winker in March. Those moves have a flavor of “win-now” to them. But neither player is older than 29, so it’s also possible the Guardians saw them as the building blocks of a stronger roster.

More telling is the Guardians’ refusal to seek other players after each pursuit failed. It is clear they adopted a “boom-or-bust” strategy – get the best player on the market, or exit the market altogether. That makes sense. Rather than overpay for older veterans or projects, why not wait until next offseason?

But what does their strategy mean for fans? The Guardians are currently hovering just below .500. If the team is in a contention framework, that record is a massive letdown.

Alternatively, the fact that two young players (first/second baseman Owen Miller and the all-powerful Steven Kwan in the outfield) have emerged as offensive machines might be enough of a win. If those two keep producing, if José Ramírez is, well, Jose, and if the pitching staff is steady, maybe it’s a victory just to have that solid core. Then, management can take another swing next offseason.

It doesn’t help that the Guardians are sending mixed signals. They swept the White Sox (with one game rained out). Then lost big in the Bronx. Then lost even bigger in Anaheim. And now they just swept Oakland. The Guardians haven’t split a series since their first series of the season against Kansas City. It’s like they forgot how to split one. Go figure!

Call me an optimist, but my take is we should just accept what comes. If management felt comfortable not acquiring any second-best options, that means they aren’t desperate for success this year. The front office probably knew this was a team that could put up a fight but isn’t equipped to consistently win – not yet, at least. I’ll be pumped if the Guardians find their way into the playoffs, but I won’t be furious if they don’t. If they just get a few exciting young players and a Ramírez extension out of the season, hey, that’s more than I expected two months ago.

What are the Guardians up to? Who knows. But let’s see what happens.