3 things the Cleveland Guardians can do right now to improve the offense
It doesn't really matter what offensive stat you choose - they all tell the same story, which is that the Cleveland Guardians offense truly stinks. Right now, the team ranks dead last in the following offensive categories: wRC+, OPS, on-base percentage, home runs, and they went into Thursday tied for last in batting average.
If this team wants any chance of winning the AL Central - which is still well within reach given Minnesota's own struggles - it will have to start scoring more runs quickly.
At its core, this is a decent-to-good offense. But a lot of things have to be going right for it to look that way, and right now that just hasn't been the case. However, there are a few things the Guardians could do right now to improve the offense that are within reason.
Call up Brayan Rocchio
This is well-trodden territory for me, as I've written before about the pressing need to call up Brayan Rocchio, a top infield prospect who truly has nothing left to prove in the minors. So far at Triple-A Columbus this year, Rocchio is hitting .323/.382/.462 with a home run, 11 doubles, 18 RBI, and nine stolen bases. You don't think Cleveland's offense could use that spark?
Despite a four-hit effort Tuesday night, Amed Rosario is batting a putrid .234/.275/.328 with one home run, three doubles, and 40 strikeouts in 128 at-bats. Not to mention he is seriously hindering the Guardians defensively. Rosario is not doing anything to warrant a lock on playing time and at this point, there's no way he's coming back in 2024. So why not bring up Rocchio and see how the infield begins to shake out for the future?
The Guardians seem intent on giving Gabriel Arias as much playing time as possible, so David Fry would find his way back to Columbus in this scenario. Rosario will still have a role on the team this year, but there's simply no reason Cleveland shouldn't be calling up one of its top prospects to help turn this thing around.
Call up Bo Naylor
The Mike Zunino experiment simply needs to end. Offensively, he's been a disaster to this point, slashing .179/.297/.346 with a 44% strikeout rate that will make you want to gouge out your eyes. Defensively, things are even worse, and teams are running wild on Cleveland on the base paths.
It's time for the Guardians to promote Bo Naylor and make him the starting catcher moving forward. They'll simply have to live with the growing pains that come from that, but Zunino's current role with the team is just not tenable. Down in Columbus, Naylor is currently batting .261/.399/.496 with seven home runs, seven doubles, and 27 RBI.
Cam Gallagher is hitting .061 in his limited at-bats. What exactly is the problem in making Zunino the backup, here?
Start looking for veteran bats on bad teams
Two names instantly pop out when looking at bad teams around baseball: Charlie Blackmon and Paul Goldschmidt.
Blackmon, 36, is in the final year of his deal with the Rockies, and while he's a left-handed bat, he's hitting .274/.378/.411 with three homers, eight doubles, 13 RBI, and a 106 OPS+ while DHing and playing right field for Colorado. At this point in his 13-year career - all of which he's spent with the Rockies - it wouldn't take much to get Blackmon, but he'd provide a valuable veteran presence in the lineup. And before you mention the Coors Field effect, Blackmon is still a career .260 hitter on the road.
As for Goldschmidt, that might be more of a fantasy scenario, and it requires far more maneuvering by the Guardians. But here's the thing: The Cardinals are one of the worst teams in baseball, and Goldschmidt is signed through 2024. Oh, and the 35-year-old is still raking one year removed from winning the NL MVP award, slashing .306/.389/.544 with seven home runs, 14 doubles, 20 RBI, and a 158 OPS+.
While Josh Bell is locked in to first base to some extent, there is a bit more positional flexibility with Josh Naylor that could make a Goldschmidt trade possible, assuming the Guardians are still actively trying to make the playoffs over the next two years. And given Naylor's struggles so far in 2023, his playing time shouldn't be guaranteed moving forward, either.
The Guardians remain the youngest team in baseball, and they are facing massive offensive struggles. But there are things Cleveland can do to help this roster right now, while keeping an eye on outside veteran talent that could make a difference by the trade deadline, assuming the team is still in the hunt.
This team is still good enough to contend, but not as it's currently constructed. The Guardians front office needs to get busy and get bold - and quick.