Cleveland Guardians bring back Austin Hedges, trade Christian Bethancourt to Marlins

The Cleveland Guardians are brining back a beloved player in catcher Austin Hedges, who will back up Bo Naylor in 2024.

Wild Card Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Cleveland Guardians - Game Two
Wild Card Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Cleveland Guardians - Game Two / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages
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Austin Hedges is coming home.

Just as we predicted - well, hoped for - earlier this offseason, beloved catcher and now World Series champion Austin Hedges is back with the Cleveland Guardians, signing a one-year, $4 million with the team Sunday.

In a corresponding move, the Guardians also traded recently acquired backup catcher Christian Bethancourt to the Miami Marlins for cash considerations.

Hedges, 31, will serve as the backup to young catcher Bo Naylor, who hit .237/.339/.470 with 11 home runs, 13 doubles, and a 124 OPS+ in 67 games last season. What Hedges is unable to provide on offense is made up for significantly with his defense, handling of the pitching staff, familiarity with the organization, and his clubhouse presence.

And with first-time manager Stephen Vogt, Hedges' ability to connect with players will become even more important. Make no mistake, the Guardians have an incredibly young roster that figures to get even younger in the coming season. Regardless of what happens with Shane Bieber, the starting pitching staff is incredibly young as well, and Hedges will be able to guide Naylor, showing him what it takes to be a starting catcher at the major-league level.

As for Bethancourt, he was picked up off waivers by the Guardians on Novemember 6 and would have figured to be the team's backup catcher if nothing else happened this offseason. And, honestly, that would have been fine too, considering the 32-year-old has seven seasons under his belt and did hit 11 home runs in each of the past two seasons in part-time duty (with a 100 OPS+ in 2022!).

But ultimately, it's a win to have Hedges back in the fold.