After bursting onto the scene and storming their way to Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series against the New York Yankees, the Cleveland Guardians continued to sift through their 40-man roster this past offseason and make challenging decisions about who could continue with the team into 2023.
Years of stockpiling prospects finally came to fruition, leading to a clogged 40-man roster and major-league team. Throughout the last few seasons, the Guardians have said goodbye to some of their top former prospects and made snap decisions off of limited time in Cleveland in order to create the best roster moving forward.
Last season was no exception, and could likely stand as the most aggressive season in terms of parting with talent. Franmil Reyes and Bobby Bradley didn’t even make it to September, and others, like Nolan Jones, finally made it to the big leagues only to find themselves with a new team this year. Eighteen players that donned Cleveland uniforms are no longer with the organization. Some, like Alex Call, are hitting leadoff for another team. Others, like the three players below, might be wishing they still played for the Guardians.
Here are three former Guardians who are off to a bad start with their new teams.
The former 2016 second-round pick never really panned out in Cleveland. He struggled to stay healthy in the minor leagues, slowing his ascent to the big-league club, and fell flat in limited time as a starter with the Guardians. With no real room for him and more promising players coming down the pike at Triple-A, Cleveland opted to part ways with Jones, dealing him to the Colorado Rockies for prospect Juan Brito in an effort to free up a spot on the 40-man roster.
He was competing for the starting third-base job with the Rockies out of spring training, but was unable to break camp with the team after hitting .195 while striking out 24 times.
Since then, he’s been up to what Cleveland knew him for - dominating in the minors. Despite getting recalled once, he hasn’t made an appearance to officially begin his career in Colorado, relegated behind a mix of veterans and unknown prospects patrolling a now five-win team. Parting ways with Brito meant the Rockies saw something in Jones, but his utterly disappointing spring training quickly showed them that Jones is going to need more than a change of scenery to be successful.
He’s at risk of being a fringe major-leaguer who isn’t going to break through, especially if the Rockies aren’t going to give him an opportunity to see consistent at-bats with the major-league club.
Benson just got too caught up in the gluttony of outfielders the Guardians had at the major-league and Triple-A levels and didn’t do nearly enough to separate himself from the pack. The Guardians likely saw him as just another guy clogging the 40-man roster who wasn’t going to pan out as a contributor in the near future. So they passed him off to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Justin Boyd and cash considerations in a similar move to the Jones-Brito exchange.
Through 21 plate appearances with the Reds, Benson collected just one single and one walk while striking out 12 times in eight games. Then on April 13, the Reds optioned him down to the Triple-A Louisville Bats where he has slashed a horrific .063/.211/.063 through 19 plate appearances. Like Jones and a litany of former top outfield prospects for the Guardians, he’s at risk of wasting away in the minor leagues, especially if he’s unable to start hitting at the rate he was at Columbus last season.
He’s one of two outfielders on the 40-man roster in Cincinnati who is currently in the minor leagues, and there’s limited room to advance with the Reds even if Benson begins hitting at a more consistent pace.
Despite the internet cult photo of Chang seeming to smile while at the plate in Detroit, braving the snow flying sideways in his face, he never panned out in Cleveland. He was a solid defensive piece up the middle, but could hardly hit his way out of a paper bag, which led to the Guardians designating him for assignment in May of last year. Since then, he’s bounced around between Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Boston. Though he just got recalled from Worcester and is slated to start at shortstop with the Red Sox, Chang’s struggles have continued.
He’s slashing .077/.143/.192 through 26 at-bats, collecting a single and a home run during that time while walking once and striking out nine times. The highlight of his time with Boston so far has been the birth of his new daughter earlier last week. On the field, he’s been struggling to hit once again and is settling into the bottom of Boston’s lineup in a similar spot he was in towards the end of his time with the Guardians.
Bobby Bradley, who went from Opening Day first baseman and hitting fifth in Cleveland’s lineup to now playing for the Charleston Dirty Birds of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.