Who do the Cleveland Guardians protect on the 40-man roster?
The Rule 5 Draft is right around the corner (held December 7th), and the Cleveland Guardians will have some roster work to do. The deadline to protect players from being exposed is coming up on Tuesday, November 15. As it sits now, the Guardians have a full 40-man roster, and there are a few notable prospects to protect.
Left-handed pitcher Joey Cantillo (#23 prospect) and shortstop Angel Martinez (#11 prospect) head the top of those in the system who should get elevated to the 40-man roster. Right-handed pitcher Peyton Battenfield, righty Ethan Hankins, and righty Lenny Torres are others who may also get added, due to their prior prospect status and investment via high draft selection/trade acquisition.
Cantillo has only pitched 73.2 innings the past two seasons, but rebounded nicely this year in Double-A Akron. Cantillo was acquired in the Mike Clevinger trade, and I'm sure the club won't want to give up on him so easily, as he is set to turn 23 years old soon. Martinez signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2018 and appears to be the next in the Guardians' long line of middle infield talent. He split time between Single-A Lake County and Double-A Akron in 2022. Battenfield was nearly the 18th rookie to debut last season, but didn't see game action when he was on the roster in Toronto. Battenfield spent the seson in Triple-A Columbus and pitched quite effectively - he'll just need to cut down on the walks.
So let's progress under the assumption that Cantillo, Martinez, and Battenfield are the only three to get added to the club's 40-man roster. If that's the case, there are going to be some moves happening here over the next 24 hours or so. A quick glance at the current 40-man roster and a few names appear as players the team can move on from, or at least for the time being (maybe they ultimately come back via a minor-league deal).
Outfielder Will Benson, catcher Luke Maile, infielder Owen Miller, and lefty reliever Anthony Gose are seemingly candidates to be removed. Maile and Gose are both arbitration-eligible, so they may actually be at the top of that list.
Maile is simply the odd man out, as it appears Austin Hedges is potentially set to return on a free-agent deal as a bridge to one of the club's younger catching prospects. Gose, on the other hand, recently underwent Tommy John surgery, so it's not out of the realm of possibilities that he is signed to a minor-league deal and remains in the organization, but sees his way off the 40-man.
Miller got off to a hot start this season and then saw this playing time fizzle, ultimately to be replaced by Gabriel Arias as the primary platoon to Josh Naylor at first base. Benson simply didn't show much in his MLB stint, and is pretty clearly behind Oscar Gonzalez (who had his own Rule 5 drama last year) and Will Brennan for the final outfield spot (this is assuming that Steven Kwan and Myles Straw are locked in left field and center field respectively).
The final option the club can consider is simply trading some of this abundant talent to accquire a proven commodity. Other clubs will be looking to do the same, and don't forget that the club did swing a deal last offseason with Tampa for Tobias Myers. He was ultimately DFA'd, but the organization still tried with a lottery ticket; it just didn't work out. Maybe the club strikes gold this year and lands a contributor; then again, maybe they don't. Only time will tell.