As it stands now, the 2024 Cleveland Guardians are still very much a work in progress, and with that will (hopefully) come additional moves to the club's roster, primarily in the fashion of an outfield bat, and some additional pitching.
And after I predicted the demise of Alfonso Rivas, I figured I'd try my hand at it again, and predict the most likely casualties of any upcoming roster moves.
Who Is on the 40-man Hot Seat for the Cleveland Guardians?
We'll start with the pitching, and a name that keeps being brought up as a likely trade piece: Shane Bieber. With each passing day, I'm becoming more of the mindset that the Guardians will hold on to Bieber, as no team will want to match their asking price.
Does Bieber then exit as a free agent following the 2024 season? Possibly, but with his decreased velocity and durability concerns I still would not rule out the possibility that he re-ups with the club and moves into a middle-of-the-rotation role, in the same fashion as Clayton Kershaw has done over recent years with the Dodgers.
Tim Herrin, James Karinchak, and Nick Sandlin all seem to be trending in the wrong direction. The Guardians did just also protect prospect Cade Smith, someone who appears poised to take over a late-inning role at some point this upcoming season. Former college closer and 2023 second-round draft pick Andrew Walters could also rapidly fly through the minors this season. There will also be other failed starters in the system who could conceivably transition into a pen role and take the spot of one of the three previously mentioned.
On the infield side of things, the Guardians still have 19 middle infielders on the 40-man. Okay, maybe they don't, but it sure feels that way. This has to the season in which the Guardians' front office packages some of that talent to get more pitching or an outfield bat, right? I sure hope so at least. Gabriel Arias and Brayan Rocchio will likely get the first crack at the starting shortstop spot in spring training. However, the club still has Jose Tena, Angel Martinez, and Juan Brito waiting in the wings. Tyler Freeman and Martinez are taking reps in the outfield and it's likely that one eventually winds up playing a super utility role for the foreseeable future. This could potentially make David Fry expendable as well, especially now that Austin Hedges in back in the fray in the backup catcher spot.
In the outfield, the Guardians still have Myles Straw under contract for three more seasons. Here's to hoping that some contender offers the Guards cash considerations to make Straw their fourth outfielder. If that inquiry were to ever occur, and the front office pounces on it, I will personally drive Myles to Hopkins. For the time being, the only other potential outfield casualty appears to be Jhonkensy Noel; I truly doubt he is moved or DFA'd, but should he struggle out of the gate, the team may value others instead.
As many of the top-tier free agents begin coming off the board, I'd expect the Guardians to become more active, both in free agency as well as the trade market. As constructed, this team isn't complete; however, working on the fringes of the roster to tweak a few things should help solidify the team's chances of competing for a divisional crown and a spot in the playoffs.