Now that the offseason is in full swing and teams can officially sign free agents, it's time to speculate on what the Cleveland Guardians will do to improve upon an overachieving roster that took the Yankees to five games in the ALDS.
There are plenty of names floating out there that could make sense for Cleveland, but guys like Jose Abreu, Josh Bell, and J.D. Martinez figure to have plenty of suitors. So while the Guardians certainly have more financial flexibility than they have in years past, here are a couple players who might still be more realistic options for a roster with suddenly very few holes to fill.
Two key free agents the Cleveland Guardians should consider signing
Mancini has been a coveted player in these parts for a while. It would have been great to see Cleveland pick him up at the deadline last year considering he only had a $10 million 2023 team option at the time. But he went to Houston, and the Astros declined his option, so here we are again.
Mancini doesn't have eye-popping stats, though he is certainly a 30 home run/30 double threat when healthy. In his best season in 2019, Mancini hit 35 homers and 38 doubles, slashing .291/.364/.535 with a 134 OPS+. While the 30-year-old hasn't matched those numbers since, Mancini still has a 104 OPS+ over the past two seasons and can provide decent power for a reasonable price.
The Guardians are in desperate need of some right-handed help at first base, which Mancini can provide. But he also gives Cleveland some flexibility in the outfield as well if they wanted to find additional ways to get him into the lineup.
The thought of Cleveland signing Joey Gallo might have you running in the other direction of this article, but hear me out. While Gallo is a true three-outcome player, he's a unique talent that actually fits in the Guardians' offensive philosophy more than you might think.
Despite the eye-popping strikeout rate, Gallo does sport an elite eye at the plate, walking nearly 15% for his career. That's how you manage to maintain a career .325 on-base percentage when your career batting average sits at .199. And despite the low average, Gallo still has a career OPS+ of 109 thanks to his prolific power; he's proven to have 40-homer power in the right situation.
You're also talking about a player who has won two Gold Gloves, which means the Guardians could conceivable roll out an outfield full of Gold Glovers in Steven Kwan, Myles Straw, and Gallo in this scenario. And if your entire outfield consisted of those three plus Will Brennan and Oscar Gonzalez to start the year, that's a pretty darn good scenario, given that Gonzalez and Gallo (a left-handed hitter) can essentially platoon in right field.
Mancini and Gallo wouldn't necessarily have Guardians fans doing backflips in the streets - a move like that would probably come through a trade, anyway, if it were to happen at all. But Mancini and Gallo both fill much-needed roles on this team - both positionally and as veterans who can help pad a lineup that will still be ridiculously young in 2023.
And from a financial standpoint, Mancini and Gallo could both come somewhat "cheap." Mancini is more of a role player at this point, while Gallo has suddenly become a reclamation project. And if the Guardians could swing signing both of them for three years or so, that could be huge in stabilizing the lineup while other prospects make their way up to Cleveland.
And it would be enticing to see if the Guardians could mold Gallo to their new offensive philosophy. If Cleveland was able to help Gallo cut down on his strikeouts by even a few percentage points, that is likely to produce some incredible results offensively.
By this point, Cleveland fans shouldn't be expecting the Guardians to be the splashiest team in free agency, but they could end up being the smartest, as moves like these could help the Guardians become better-suited to defend their AL Central crown in 2023.