The Cleveland Guardians designated Oscar Mercado for assignment on June 21. After moving on from Bobby Bradley and Bradley Zimmer earlier this season, Mercado became the latest player to get the boot. It was the right move. Without question. The Cleveland Guardians are a young team searching for a clear identity, but they have a cohort of 40-man guys that are starting to clog up Triple-A and the majors.
The 2022 season is rubber meets the road time in Cleveland. The front office is finally making some tough calls on home-grown talent and opting for younger, more promising prospects to carry them into – hopefully – another contention window.
Then they brought him back. Ugh.
Facepalm, screaming into the air. WHY Chris Antonetti? WHY Mike Chernoff?
There’s no room, no place on the Guardians for fringe major-leaguers and has-beens without long-term potential. There are worthy players with the Columbus Clippers who are banging, clawing at the Guardians’ door and doing everything they possibly can to earn that call-up to the show. Guys like Mercado, especially when they are in the lineup during a major-league game, don’t move your franchise anywhere. Frankly, starting Mercado on Monday against the Detroit Tigers moved this franchise backwards.
I thought the days of Mike Freeman and Greg Allen were done. I thought I’d watched my last Guardians game with names like Domingo Santana, Ben Gamel, or Harold Ramirez. This team is exciting, and it’s clear it’s going somewhere. Sure, the Guardians are hitting a rough patch right now. They’re young, make mistakes, and can be frustrating at times. But these new names and the prospect of watching them blossom into major-league-ready players drums up a considerable amount of interest.
No one’s buying a ticket to see Oscar Mercado or Sandy León. They’re itching to witness the debut of stars like Nolan Jones, Tyler Freeman and Bo Naylor. They want the young guns. Players like Mercado do one thing: take opportunities away from more talented, younger guys who need to wet their feet and get established at the major-league level. Why is the club starting a guy (in the nine spot no less) that has a career OBP of .288?
These sorts of get-me-over, roster-filler guys are valuable on teams that are retooling, rebuilding or hitting a rough patch via the injury bug. Cleveland is not doing any of those things. The Guardians are learning each game and adapting to the adversity of a bad stretch for the second or third time this season. Cleveland’s answer should not have been signing Mercado, and it certainly shouldn’t have been adding him to the major-league roster and starting him in a game.
Let the kids play, and honestly, let them fail and learn from their mistakes. The wave of new guys has finally arrived, and if you squint a little bit, you can see the formation of a core group of players beginning to take shape. Instead of trusting them to figure it out themselves, the Guardians reverted to one of their worst habits of the past decade and signed an older player who’s proven only in the sense that people know he hardly has enough talent for MLB.