The Cleveland Guardians are struggling. That's not a sentence that many would have imagined reading and believing with conviction based on the teams magical 2022 season. A season that saw the youngest team in baseball propel itself into the American League Divisional Series. That team played with reckless abandon, terrorizing opposing teams with smart base running and a savvy ability to get on base by any means possible.
That team and the 2023 Guardians could not be any farther apart in the universe than they currently are. The season so far has been one filled with frustration, heartbreak, and generally weird and (almost unbelievably) bad sequencing. The team hits, the pitching implodes. The pitching is dynamite, the offense is scarce. A baseball fans equivalent of a Hitchcock script, but the twists and turns are becoming predictable.
While the season is by no means a lost cause, serious changes need to be considered to bring this stumbling team to life. Save for José Ramírez (and more recently, Josh Naylor) consistent offensive production with thump has nay been found. Josh Bell is walking at a rate of 13.8%, but only slugging .335. That's not quite enough to justify his two-year, $33,000,000 million dollar contract. It's no secret that Bell is a historically streaky hitter, but this is nearing Eric Hosmer levels of under-performing expectations.
On top of a confounding list of problems that keep seeming to pile up, the Guardians are getting next to no pop out of their outfielders. Oscar Gonzalez struggled to find spark and was optioned on May 6th to Triple-A Columbus. Will Brennan, Myles Straw, and Steven Kwan have (unsurprisingly) struggled to put the ball over the fence as well. If not for some recent power from Gabriel Arias, the Guardians' outfield slugging is dismal at best. Arias is a natural shortstop, for the record.
No matter the team's recent struggles, some rather difficult decisions lie ahead for Chris Antonetti and company. For as much praise that they deserve for carefully crafting a brilliant young pitching core, the front office decisions surrounding other positions on the team deserve to be called into question. Mike Zunino has been a black hole at catcher, both offensively and defensively, and Amed Rosario is on pace to have the worst defensive season of his career and not even produce offensively at league average.
The organizations internal options for those gaping holes have already been discussed ad-nauseum. Bo Naylor, George Valera, Brayan Rocchio, etc. The fanbase is rabid for an injection of life into a corpse, but is Chris Antonetti ready to commit to such drastic changes? Rosario is set to be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2023 season in what is set to be a relatively weak free agent class for shortstops. Previous team moves would suggest they will part ways with Rosario and turn to internal options to fill the vacant middle-infield role. As far as catching, Bo Naylor is the future backstop for years to come, but Cam Gallagher and Mike Zunino are blocking his path -- for now.
When the need for something you do not possess arises, you simply buy it. In baseball, talent is economical buying power. The Guardians front office has been meticulous in developing a core of promising middle infielders with Brayan Rocchio and Angel Martínez leading the way in terms of future stars. Rocchio showcased his sharp defensive prowess during his short stint in Cleveland and his bat has always shown promise in the minors. Martínez may wind up being even better if given the appropriate development time. The team obviously thinks highly of both, as they are both on the team's 40-man roster.
With George Valera on the injured list and his debut in Cleveland seemingly in limbo
, here are five trade pieces that the Guardians should target aggressively. Any one of these will immediately add some thump to the corner outfield lineup spot.