Why the Cleveland Guardians Need To Trade Chase DeLauter Now

Despite being the No.1 prospect in the organization, the Cleveland Guardians need to trade Chase DeLauter now while his value is high.
Oakland Athletics Spring Training
Oakland Athletics Spring Training / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages
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Going into the 2024 season, I was fully embracing the Chase DeLauter hype train that surrounded Spring Training for the Cleveland Guardians. On April 13, I wrote about DeLauter being the top prospect to watch in the organization this season, thinking he could be an early-season call-up. Now, just two months later, it's time to look the other way. The Cleveland Guardians need to move Chase DeLauter before the trade deadline.

Quite the shift in opinion, I know, but it comes with reasoning. No team just decides to move on from their No. 1 prospect in the organization, but given Cleveland's position this season and a few points with DeLauter, I'm calling for just that.

Let's start with DeLauter himself. A top prospect with an intriguing stat line that shows promise for the future? Absolutely. But... a long list of recurring injuries to go with it. I once heard that injury prone isn't when you get hurt often, it's when you hurt the same parts of the body repeatedly. Well, DeLauter is injury-prone either way.

This was well documented before his arrival in Cleveland. DeLauter's final collegiate season at James Madison was cut short due to a broken left foot. Cleveland still opted to draft him in the first round of the 2022 MLB Draft, but he soon needed surgery in January of 2023 to repair the injury.

In late April of this season, the same foot sidelined DeLauter again. Pain while running the bases detected another fracture and another setback to his career timeline. The good news was surgery wasn't needed. The bad news, another injury hit. After working his way back from his left foot injury, DeLauter is already back on the injured list, this time with a right foot injury. On May 28, just barely over a month after his left foot fracture, DeLauter began dealing with turf toe in his right foot.

Now, an injury shouldn't be the sole reason for moving a player. However, in the case of DeLauter, this is a reoccurring issue. Since coming to the organization, he has continued to sustain setback after setback with his feet, yet still remains the top prospect in the organization. A team vying for a division title and hopefully more, now should be the time for Cleveland to cash in.

The fact of the matter is that despite the injuries, DeLauter is still an intriguing prospect. He's only 22 years old, hasn't used up any of his service time, and has a strong Spring Training already under his belt that nearly landed him on the Opening Day roster. Surely, there is a team out there willing to pay a hefty price for a player of that potential.

Luckily for Cleveland, they could use that hefty price. It's no secret that Cleveland is in need of starting pitchers, and while a right fielder is on the list of potential needs as well, the Guardians have other options than DeLauter. We've already started to see some surface with the likes of Daniel Schneemann and Johnathan Rodriguez, not to mention the possibilities of George Valera or Jhonkensy Noel, who are both listed on the team's 40-man roster as outfielders and have been lighting it up in Columbus. The solution for Cleveland's right field canbe found while simultaneously moving DeLauter for a top-end starter. 

Cleveland has been down this road before, specifically with first-round outfielders. Their first-round selection in 2016, Will Benson, was moved to Cincinnati in pretty much a wash of a deal. Benson has been the most impactful player of the deal so far, but that isn't saying too much for a guy hitting .212 this year. Perhaps a better example is the 2012-2014 span for Cleveland when they took four outfielders in the the first round over three years. 

Exhibit A: Mike Papi, 2014. Don't be shocked if you don't know the name. He's been out of baseball since 2019 and never cracked the majors, but did play 147 career games for Triple-A Columbus.

Exhibit B: Bradley Zimmer, 2014. A once-top prospect that couldn't stay healthy, showed flashes but never truly reached his potential. Zimmer last played for Cleveland in 2021 before splitting time in 2022 between Toronto and Philadelphia and currently isn't with a team. The hope was always for himto finally figure it out, but injuries made that difficult to do. Over six MLB seasons, his season-high for games was 109, and itcame after he left Cleveland. His career batting average was also .213.

Exhibit C: Clint Frazier, 2013. Taken with the fifth overall pick, expectations were high for Frazier, but Cleveland didn't hold on to him for very long. Frazier was sent in a package deal that landed Cleveland none other than Andrew Miller. Cleveland got an incredible reliever that played a key role in a World Series appearance and near win. Frazier is now out of the majors, never hit more than 12 home runs in a season, and only played four seasons in a Yankee uniform before two years in Chicago, one with the Cubs and one with the White Sox, ending with a .235 career batting average.

Exhibit D: Tyler Naquin, 2012. Naquin, by far, had the biggest impact of this group in Cleveland, but that unfortunately isn't saying too much. Five years in Cleveland, one of the best moments in recent team history, and then three seasons split between the Reds, Mets, and White Sox. Now, he's out of baseball. His rookie season was promising, hitting .296 in 116 career games in 2016, but he couldn't sustain that production.

Do you see the trend? Of the group, the injuries to DeLauter definitely put him on the Zimmer path, as do the flashes and expectations. Cleveland can't make the same mistake here. A trade may put Cleveland on the Frazier path. Given DeLauter's potential and aforementioned valuable traits in a trade, he could bring in an impactful player the way Frazier helped land Andrew Miller in 2016. Naquin's path, or better, is still in play, but it isn't worth the risk of ending up with any of the other three options.

For the sake of DeLauter, I hope I'm wrong. I hope he can overcome the injuries and live up to the hype he created this past spring. But for Cleveland, they can't wait and see if that happens. The team is in position for a run right now. DeLauter offers value with a risk. Between others in the organization to rise up in the outfield and DeLauter's injuries, Cleveland needs to move him now while his value is high and capitalize on landing a key rotational piece at the deadline that will help make a run in October.