Is it time for the Cleveland Guardians to shake things up?

Colorado Rockies v Cleveland Guardians
Colorado Rockies v Cleveland Guardians / Ron Schwane/GettyImages

We're about a month into the 2023 campaign and I'm ready for some changes to the roster.

Thus far, the Guardians' season has been a mixed bag of good and bad, but also entirely frustrating. Before I continue, the sky isn't falling for the club; they play in the AL Central, and as long as the Guardians are in striking distance by late May, they will still have a shot at winning the division.

Instead, this exercise is more about roster decisions becoming more clear. Guys who fit, guys who don't. Guys who are here for a good time, and those who are here for a long time. And though it's early, there are prospects making noise in Columbus and Akron. At the risk of prospects not losing their luster, i hope some roster decisions are on the horizon. Gabriel Arias, like Nolan Jones before him, has shown his warts. If the front office continues to operate with such caution, this will continue to occur.

I understand the cautious approach, I really do. You certainly want to give guys an opportunity, but sometimes it's not working out. Other times injuries dictate how the roster needs an adjustment. We all saw Logan Allen's beautiful/historic debut, and it's tantalizing and easy to envision Tanner Bibee contributing to the staff, too after his own fantastic debut.

But such moves will come at the expense of others. It just so happens the Guardians have a few guys who may need a change of scenery to get their head on straight.

A Look at the Guardians Bullpen

The first domino to fall was the recent demotion of reliever Tim Herrin. Herrin looked overmatched ever since his first two appearances. That debut was nice, and Herrin probably has a legitimate shot at a pen role in the future. But the only reason he broke camp with the club was due to Sam Hentges' injury. Herrin has only 47 innings at the Triple-A level, and with Hentges' return imminent, the time was right to send Herrin back to Columbus to refine things.

Speaking of the bullpen, James Karinchak has had a rough go of things. He's allowed four home runs in just 12 innings on the young season. I do think he can correct these issues and adjust to the pitch clock, but he may need need to do so in a different role, or in Columbus (he does have two options remaining). It's been difficult to trust him in any high-leverage situations lately.

However, reclamation project Touki Toussaint has been pitching well for the Clippers, as he's been able to cut down on the walks, an issue that has plagued him in the past. Toussaint was brought in this season on a minor-league deal, and the former highly-touted prospect is making the transition to the pen. Could a call-up be in his future? It certainly would make sense to let Karinchak work things out for a week or two in Columbus.

A Starting Rotation in Flux

The injuries to Triston McKenzie and Aaron Civale are a real bummer. Compound that with other starters not being lights-out and the rotation suddenly has a litany of question marks. One of those who has not preformed well is Zach Plesac. If young guys like Peyton Battenfield, Allen, and Bibee continue to pitch well, then Plesac's days may be numbered. Dating back to the start of the 2021 season, Plesac has an ERA north of 4.60 and an ERA+ of 88. The infusion of young pitchers will have a ripple effect on the starting rotation and even a guy like Cal Quantrill could get edged out if the young pitchers live up to expectations.

What About the Guardians' Lineup?

Unfortunately, last year's postseason darling, Oscar Gonzalez, has not gotten off to anything resembling a good start. In fact, many of the fears that scouts and insiders addressed have reared their head early in the season. He's chasing pitches and not fouling them off like he did last year. And for someone who rarely walks, that only compounds the issue. Fortunately for Tito and crew, Will Brennan has been a quality substitution. But running with an outfield of Steven Kwan, Myles Straw, and Brennan, though excellent defensively, provides little to no power in lineup struggling to get things going early on. Prospect George Valera has yet to appear in a game this season, as he is rehabbing from a hand injury that shut him down in spring training.

Utility infielder Gabriel Arias is yet another hitter who has looked lost at the plate. Maybe it's a lack of consistent playing time. But when pressed into action in Detroit, Tyler Freeman was able to hit the ground running. Arias may never find himself as a full-time player, especially with the way Brayan Rocchio has started the season in Columbus. Remember, Amed Rosario is slated to become a free agent at season's end, and inserting Rocchio at either second or shortstop seems like an easy transition, thus making Arias an expendable piece if he cannot contribute something offensively.

Can we finally be rid of the three-catcher experiment as well? The trio of Mike Zunino, Cam Gallagher, and Meibrys Viloria always screamed stop-gap, and for good reason, as Bo Naylor is waiting in the wings. The .250 batting average that Naylor currently owns in Columbus doesn't jump off the page, but his defense has gotten better; he only has one passed ball and zero wild pitches this season. It's only a matter of time before Naylor finds himself in Cleveland; I'm sure the front office will want to ensure that he sees plenty of action and doesn't keep the bench warm, though, as well.

Another option hanging out in Columbus is Zack Collins, who has primarily been used as a DH, but was drafted as a catcher and has seen time at first as well. His hot start should warrant at least a call-up to fill a bench role should the Guardians clean house of its current catchers.

Again, the sky isn't falling. But clearly things could stand to improve. The good news in all of this is that many of the players who are struggling have a past history of success. So this would indicate that it's merely a rough patch or a bit of regression necessitating some adjustment. However, there are a few whom we may be witnessing their final days with the club.

Also, most of the moves can be made internally, so the Guardians can continue to hoard their prospects until the right player becomes available. Getting things right is the immediate goal, with a playoff run as the endgame here, but that can't happen if the status quo remains.