INTRODUCTION, OVERVIEW AND BIG MAJOR LEAGUE TARGETS:

The Guardians face some very interesting questions leading up to the August 2nd, 2022 MLB Trade Deadline. With a full 40-man roster, they will need to decide who among the following list of players in their minor-league system who are eligible for the 2022 Rule 5 draft are in need of protection: Peyton Battenfield, Will Benson, Will Brennan, Joey Cantillo, Xzavion Curry, Hunter Gaddis, Ethan Hankins, Tim Herrin, Kevin Kelly, Angel Martinez, Nick Mikolajchak, Bo Naylor, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Lenny Torres. At the very least, one would assume that Brennan, Cantillo, Gaddis, Martinez and Naylor will be getting protected. But, with players like Jhonkensy Noel, Brayan Rocchio and Jose Tena who are not yet major-league ready, already on a full roster, the Guardians don’t have room to add many more players who are not yet ready for the majors.

So, what do they do with this collection of prospect talent in need of protection? What moves can they make this year that will not prevent them from evaluating talent that needs major league reps? What teams are possible fits for them to make a deal? (Note: I composed these articles over a period of about 10 days starting on June 6th, so some stats may have changed slightly from when they were recorded. I tried to get them as current as possible). Stats and rankings are pulled from FanGraphs. Please consider supporting and visiting that amazing website as much as you are able!

First, I’ve split MLB into a few different categories:

Contenders Possibly Looking to Fill Holes: Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Twins, White Sox, Astros, Angels (even in their slump, I don’t think they look to sell), Mets, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, and Padres. Of these teams, it’s obvious the Guardians have some past chemistry with the Astros, Blue Jays, Mets, Brewers, Cardinals, and Padres.

Contenders in a Weird Spot: Red Sox, Mariners, and Phillies. All three have playoff aspirations but have had some setbacks this year, so far. The Guardians have some chemistry with the Mariners because DiPoto will trade with anyone!

Middling-Below-Average Teams on the Rise for the Future: Guardians, Rangers, Marlins, Pirates, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Tigers. Past chemistry for the Guardians exists with the Rangers, Marlins, Pirates and Cubs front offices.

Bad Teams in a Rebuild/Looking to Add Prospects/Young Guys: Orioles, Royals, Athletics, Reds and Nationals. Past chemistry exists with the Orioles, Athletics, Nationals and Reds.

Players Cleveland Should Look to Trade:
Amed Rosario, SS – We know who Amed is, at this point. A 90-100 wRC+ bat who plays below-average defense at short. Would he be a better fit at 2B or 3B or LF? Doesn’t seem like he’s going to get a chance to see the answer to those questions in Cleveland. With only 1 more year of control left after 2022, it makes sense to trade Amed to a team looking to compete in 2022 that needs some middle-infield help.

Possible Fits: LAA, TBR, St. Louis, Houston, NYY, Mia, SDP, Milwaukee

Players Cleveland Would Probably Trade for the Right Return:
Shane Bieber, RHP – With only two years of team control left, Bieber is at the point where un-extended Guardians players have to be on the lookout for trades. The Guardians will have to be overwhelmed to trade Bieber this summer or, likely, this offseason as well. They also would have to get many players back who can help in 2023-2025… seems an unlikely fit. I think, if he doesn’t sign an extension, Bieber will get traded after the 2023 season to help fill whatever roster hole is needed then or to replenish the lower levels of the minor league system with a great pre-Rule-5 eligible prospect or three.
Possible Fits: Any team looking to compete for the playoffs in 2022-2023.

Zach Plesac, RHP – I think we know at this point that Plesac is an acceptable #5 starter who would probably be an excellent bullpen arm. That is of use to any team. Unlike Civale, I don’t think there’s any reason to suppose Plesac will rebuild trade value that doesn’t exist now if given the opportunity. So, if you’re a contender in 2022 looking for an arm who can keep you in games and a guy who can throw some high-leverage relief innings until 2025 as need be… you’d probably give up a significant piece or two for Plesac. However, ahem, let me give you a roster-management bromide that will never fade: “YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH PITCHING.”
Possible Fits: Any team looking to compete for the playoffs in 2022-2023

Owen Miller, IF – Miller had an insane month of April and a poor month of May. Hopefully he will bounce back with a great June. His best position is second-base on a Cleveland roster loaded with 2B/SS options. It would make a lot of sense to me for the Guardians to be open to the idea of exchanging someone who has shown enough to make you believe he can be a viable ML starter at second-base for help in another position of need (catcher, slugging outfield prospect, relief pitcher and pitchers in general). Miller really seems like a Cleveland guy, however, and I kinda think he is going to emerge from 2022 with the second-base job well in-hand. I wouldn’t LOOK to trade him; I’d just be open to the right deal if it materializes.
Possible Fits: LAA, TBR, Houston, NYY, Mia, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Toronto, Baltimore.

Other Cleveland Players I’d Keep in the Back of My Mind for a Trade:

Aaron Civale – Can’t see Cleveland trading Civale in the middle of a tough season as it would not maximize his value,  but if a team really believed in him… maybe?

Franmil Reyes – see above. You don’t trade a bat like Reyes at the absolute nadir of his value.

Tyler Freeman – Blocked in Cleveland, but he’s still got the elite bat-to-ball skills. If Owen Miller is truly seen as the second-baseman of the future, Freeman is a great trade chip.

Nolan Jones – With Jones back and starting off hot at the plate, he would be especially attractive to teams who think he could stick at third base, where he is blocked in Cleveland. Could be a huge trade chip if the Guardians look to include him in talks.

Gabriel Arias – the emergence of Gimenez and the potential of Rocchio makes Arias possibly expendable. However, he is currently still recovering from an injury, which complicates things. We also don’t know if the team may view him as the shortstop of the future (with Gimenez at second?), especially considering Rocchio’s struggles at Akron this year.

Steven Kwan – The on-base skills are real, but the power he showed in Triple-A last year hasn’t translated so far. His position where his value is maximized is centerfield and the Guardians already have Straw.

Richie Palacios – Again, the contact skills are real, but Palacios is blocked by Kwan in left. Does the team view either, or both, as expendable? Palacios is not a good defender, however.

Jose Tena – The middle-infield logjam means any middle-infielder on the 40-man could be available and Tena’s been steadily figuring things out at High-A while still being young for the level.

Bryan Lavastida – If the Guardians deal for a catcher, Lavastida could become available.

Cody Morris – I don’t think Morris gets dealt unless he gets healthy, but any pitcher on the 40 is possibly available.

Carlos Vargas – See above.

Tobias Myers – Myers has been turning things around of late, and he is on the 40, so he could be traded for the second straight season if the Guardians decide to move some pitching.

Konnor Pilkington – With what Pilkington has shown in Cleveland, he’s probably their most valuable pitching commodity not named Bieber, McKenzie or Quantrill on the 40-man. That makes him a useful piece in any potential deal for a big bat.

As a final note, Akron’s rotation with Logan T. Allen, Hunter Gaddis, Xzavion Curry, Tanner Burns, and Joey Cantillo are all tearing up Double-A and can be viewed as prized commodities by any team looking to shore up pitching depth (which is every team). You cannot possibly have too much pitching, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cleveland hang on to all of these players, but it feels like they do have the leeway to trade 1-2 of them if they see a player who really solidifies the major league roster potentially available.

Names Who Would Only Be Available for a Top 10 Bat/#1 or #2 Starter:
George Valera, Daniel Espino, Brayan Rocchio and Gavin Williams – These are what you call “untouchable” prospects, which means you probably don’t trade them unless Bryan Reynolds or Tyler Stephenson is on the table.

Next Pt II. Trade Targets

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