This is an odd time of year for significant trades to happen in Major League Baseball. Teams are settling into spring training, excited about the rosters they've built over the offseason, and evaluating players for the future. However, occasionally a very obvious need suddenly arises that can lead to a significant deal being made.
The season-ending ACL tear that Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Gavin Lux suffered on February 27 provides just such an opportunity for the Guardians, and they should seriously consider pursuing a deal immediately.
Anthony Alandt of Away Back Gone recently laid out a very compelling argument as to why Cleveland should not trade Rosario. However, the benefits may outweigh the risks both short-term and long-term, and are worth considering for a team that is constantly evaluating how to improve its roster and control costs.
The Guardians Should Consider Trading Amed Rosario Now
Amed Rosario had a great year in 2022, posting a 4.2 WAR while hitting .283 with 11 home runs. He has been amazingly consistent over his two full seasons in Cleveland, and they do not need to trade him, even as he moves closer to free agency. However, he will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and if he continues to hit consistently he will be highly sought-after as a durable shortstop hitting free agency in the prime of his career. He will almost certainly become too expensive for the Guardians.
The main argument against trading Rosario is that he is a central piece to the Guardians success. While true, they have multiple replacement options that should be able to slide right in. Making this option even more appealing is that by trading Rosario, they could actually gain roster flexibility, which would allow them to maneuver some of the younger players on and off their roster more efficiently throughout the season.
The Guardians Have Replacements
Gabriel Arias is raking so far in spring training and forcing the Guardians' hand. After a call-up in 2022 and making their postseason roster, the 23-year-old is currently being played as a super utility man for Cleveland. He is almost certain to make the roster and fill in at any of the infield spots, including first base, and might even see some time in the outfield.
Arias is a natural shortstop, spending most of his time in the minors in the middle infield, and could immediately slot in for Rosario. The Guardians could likewise move Andrés Giménez to shortstop, the position that he is playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, and play Arias at second base.
Long-term, the Guardians also need to make room for other prospects. Brayan Rocchio is already close to joining Giménez and Arias in a fight for playing time in the Guardians middle infield. Rocchio has progressed quickly through the minor leagues, hitting .257 with 18 home runs and 14 stolen bases as a 21-year-old in Double-A and Triple-A in 2022. His improvement goes even deeper than the raw numbers, as he increased his walks, decreased strikeouts, and added improved power, and the Guardians added him to their 40-man roster in November to protect him prior to the Rule 5 Draft. As a gifted defender, the Guardians could allow him time to continue to develop at the major-league level, even if he struggles at first with the bat.
Trading a starting shortstop just before the season starts would obviously depend on what they could get for him, but with ready-made replacements already on the roster, the Guardians should see what they can get, and the Dodgers are a match made in heaven.
The Dodgers Have a Loaded Farm System
Given the current construction of this Guardians team, they do not have to be focused on particular players or even positions. Their goal in any trade should be to extend their window of contention without hurting their team this year. The Dodgers in turn should be looking to make a deal for a shortstop who can immediately step in as a major-league impact player without giving up anyone from their major-league roster, or any of their elite prospects.
Since Cleveland always seems to find value in players that other organizations overlook, and the Dodgers have a deep farm system, it should not be hard for the teams to find a match. A combination of any number of pitchers who are aging out for the Dodgers as prospects could make sense (such as 25-year-old right-hander Ryan Pepiot, or 24-year-old Gavin Stone). Nick Nastini, 23, who has struggled as a starter, but projects much better as a reliever, could be interesting to the Guardians as well.
The Dodgers could throw in any number of younger prospects who have struggled to find consistency in the Dodger organization, such as 20-year-old left-hander Maddux Bruns. These are the types of pitchers who may flourish in the Guardians system, which has been adept at developing fringe pitching talent in recent years.
With the Guardians constantly seeking to balance contention and payroll constraints, Rosario is not a long-term foundational piece for them. Given that they have replacements ready to step in right now, and are a near-perfect match for a team that would value him more highly than Cleveland does, now is the time to strike to complete a deal.