The Cleveland Guardians have oh-so-many middle infielders, so what do they do?
Stop me if you have heard this one before, but the Cleveland Guardians have too many middle infielders.
The team currently has eight (ten depending on how you want to classify Owen Miller and Richie Palacios) middle infielders on the 40-man roster. Last time I checked, you can only start two and probably want one or two more in a reserve role/in the waiting.
Take a look at all the guys in the system: Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Miller, Tyler Freeman (#1 organizational prospect in 2021), Brayan Rocchio (#5 ranked prospect), Gabriel Arias (#9), Angel Martinez (#10), Jake Fox (#14), Jose Tena (#16), Milan Tolentino (#20), Angel Genao (#25), Juan Brito, Palacios, Carson Tucker, and Aaron Bracho. These are just the guys that have been considered top prospects by MLB and their organizational rankings the past few years.
The Guards are also the odds-on favorite to sign international free agent Welbyn Francisca, the #28 ranked international free agent in the 2023 class. Welbyn happens to be, you guessed correctly, a shortstop.
Again, I'm being generous in my lumping in of Owen Miller and Richie Palacios - heck, maybe even Gabriel Arias- as each of those have seen less time in the middle of the diamond, but for the sake of the argument, they originally came up as middle infielders. But still, the organization will have 16 guys who are considered to be prospects of note.
I get the thought process of the front office. Typically, the most athletic kids are going to play up the middle, so they can use that athleticism and cover the most ground. As these prospects mature, some will grow and fill out while others don't; some may grow too big to legitimately play up the middle and end up moving to a corner. But historically speaking, these types of players may hit for a high average, but their power may not be there. Hence the position the Guardians have found themselves in.
So what's my point here? It's simple really - the Guardians have to make a deal and offload a guy or two this offseason. The time is right to sell some of this prospect capital and get a pitcher, first baseman, or an outfielder of note. This current lineup is so close to being a formidable threat, but as currently constructed there are some holes that can and should be plugged externally.
I've made it no secret that I would love to see the Guardians swing a trade with the Pirates for Bryan Reynolds. Adding him to the middle of the lineup would be the thing of dreams (go out and get a Josh Bell/Trey Mancini type and we would be in heaven). But he won't come cheap. Using Baseball Trade Values, a package of Zach Plesac, Brayan Rocchio, Tyler Freeman, and Chase DeLauter gets the deal done. There are other packages that would interest the Pirates I'm sure, but holding onto the pitching prospects should be a key priority in trade negotiations.
But there are other trades to be made - teams like the Mariners, Marlins, and possibly the Braves all jump to mind as teams that could be seeking middle infield help this offseason. Each team is able to return a package that ultimately fits the needs of the Guardians.
I know this sounds like a broken record, but we can't hold on to these prospects too long, or we run the risk of exposing their proverbial warts (just look at Nolan Jones). Obtaining a guy like Juan Brito doesn't make sense unless the front office does swing a trade and includes one of these top prospects. Sadly, it's likely the only "quick fix" the club can make to vault from postseason participant to true contender.