Cleveland Guardians: Deep farm system allows trade for game-changing reliever
The Cleveland Guardians have a deep farm system, so is it time for them to finally make a trade for some bullpen help?
Cleveland has recently been known as a pitching factory, routinely pumping out dominating arms from the college circuit that blossom into top-end MLB starters. Even the bullpen has produced consistently powerful relievers from the farm system, mixed seamlessly with under-the-radar signings and key acquisitions.
For once, however, it seems as though the Guardians’ hitting has surpassed the level of their pitchers, especially when it comes to the bullpen arms. While the sub-.500 club has seen stellar play from Owen Miller, Myles Straw and José Ramírez, among others, Cleveland’s bullpen roster is filled with under-performing veterans, young guys in transition and fringe major leaguers that casual fans would have extreme difficulty picking out of a lineup.
Sure, the ninth inning is locked down by Emmanuel Clase as he continues to establish himself as a more than capable closer. Sam Hentges is essentially saving his major-league career with a surprising resurgence as a reliever. But outside of them and the emergent Trevor Stephan, no one has been anywhere close to palatable for Cleveland. Bullpen struggles (cite as recent as May 17 and Nick Sandlin’s disastrous outing) must be addressed if the Guardians want to stay in contention for the AL Central title.
Maybe it’s blind optimism that leads me to believe Cleveland has the window for a playoff spot this season, but it’s reality and the glaringly poor statistics that show the Guardians need a key reliever if they want to be in true contention for their first AL Central title since 2018. Luckily for Cleveland, it has the deep farm system to find an explosive arm without really stifling their future plans.
The great thing about the way the Guardians draft and develop talent is that it usually leads to a logjam in the higher levels of the minor-league system. That leads to once-precious prospects becoming somewhat expendable in the minds of the Guardians. Right now, five of Cleveland’s top 10 prospects can all play the same positions. The Guardians stand in a perfect position to trade two or three prospects – yes, even if both come from the top 30 – in order to acquire that back-end arm that could propel them the rest of the season.
The trade markets have yet to heat up and the majority of trades and moves from MLB teams are simple DFAs and waiver transactions, so a feasible reliever trade candidate has yet to emerge. Cleveland also tends to acquire players with multiple years left on their contracts, effectively taking out marquee names like Mychal Givens, Corey Knebel or Edwin Diaz.
A few players, such as Ken Giles and Scott Oberg, have options, making them more attractive candidates for Cleveland, but we’ll likely have to wait for true names to emerge.
On the Guardians’ front, a prospect at a lower level like Milan Tolentino, who might get squeezed out of a major-league spot, could be paired with someone ranked higher, like Jhonkensy Noel.
Cleveland has already developed more than enough talent, and with the offense finally coming together this season, it’s time to support it with some quality (dare I say All-Star) pitching. The Guardians have seen how crucial it is to have reliable relievers, so it’s time for them to let some prospects free and start closing out some games.