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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!

This is the second part of a three-part series taking a look at possibilities for the 2022 MLB Trade Deadline for the Guardians. Today, we are looking at the rest of some prominent major-league targets the Guardians may consider. Please note that these articles were written over a ten-day period so stats may not be entirely current, but are as updated as possible.

The Whales
Bryan Reynolds, 27.4 years old, OF, RH, Pittsburgh, Under Team Control through 2025 – Projected for 3.9, 3.7, 3.6 WAR over the next three years, 115 wRC+ in 2022
Analysis: I do believe Pittsburgh will trade Reynolds, but probably not before this offseason. Plus, it doesn’t really make sense for Cleveland to pay the extra price to have him for August-September 2022 when they are probably not going to make a World Series run this season. However, if the Pirates are making Reynolds available, the Guardians should be at the front of the line because they have the prospect capital to get it done. And, look, I love George Valera, but Bryan Reynolds is what you hope Valera will be someday, so there aren’t too many players I wouldn’t include in a discussion for Reynolds who would be under team-control through 2025 and would anchor the middle of the Guardians order. Reynolds plays ok in center but would seem to be a better fit in right-field. Unfortunately, any team looking to acquire him might have to pay a center-field tax, and the Guardians wouldn’t be interested in that, I would assume.

Tyler Stephenson, 25.9 years old, Catcher, RH, Cincinnati, Under team control through 2026 – Projected for 2.9 wins this year, 2.4 and 2.3 for the following years. 129 wRC+, 1 DRS, -.5 Framing Runs for 2022.
Analysis: Not exactly sure why Cincinnati would trade a guy who appears to be the answer as their starting catcher for the next 5 years, but I’m sure anyone is available at the right price. Would the Guardians give up 2-3 of their top 5 prospects for him? I’m going to say firmly “no,” even given the possibility that robo umps may alleviate his lack of framing prowess somewhere in the time-period during which he would be under team control.

Sean Murphy, 27.8 years old, Catcher, RH, Oakland, Under team control through 2025,– Projected for 3 wins this year, 2.3 and 2.2 for the following, 94 wRC+, 0 DRS, 3.2 Framing Runs for 2022.
Analysis: Murphy had a scorching start to the year and then fell off the face of the earth for a bit and has settled in right about where you’d expect in that 90-100 wRC+ range. He’s a great framer, which Cleveland loves. He’s just going to be extremely expensive – a decent hitting catcher who is a good-great defender is just so rare. Maybe the team decides to cash in several, high-profile trade chips (realizing they may even have to include one of the Valera/Rocchio/Espino collection) on a player like this, but I kinda suspect they will continue to try to find value in cheaper options until Bo Naylor is ready. The only reason I think he might be an option is because he’s two years older than Stephenson is and his years of control fit with when Cleveland’s next wave of talent should be peaking… and you can’t have too much good catching, just like pitching.

German Marquez, 27.3 years old, RHP, Colorado, signed through 2023 with a club option ($8.6M AAV) – Projected for 3.6, 3.8, and 3.8 wins, 4.95 FIP, 4.74 xERA, 7.81/2.91 K/BB/9 for 2022.
Analysis: Hear me out – Marquez has not pitched well in 2022 since the Rockies (stupidly?) asked him to add a four-seam fastball. The Rockies are the weirdest team in baseball. Might they reload their system and unload an underperforming ace on the Guardians? I ask this because my mouth is salivating at the idea of Guardians’ pitching folks getting their hands on Marquez and getting him out of Colorado. The biggest fly in this beautiful ointment – nothing the Rockies do or don’t do ever makes sense, so they’re not good trade partners. Also, surely even the Rockies can see that Marquez is still good and shouldn’t be traded because a new pitch he’s added is getting hammered… right?

The Dolphins:
Ramon Laureano, 27.10 years old, CF/RF, RH, Oakland, Under team control through 2024 – Projected for 2.2, 2.6, 2.7 wins over 2022-2024, 108 wRC+, 4 DRS in RF, -3 in CF this season.

Analysis: So, IF teams are beginning to view Laureano as a right-fielder, than it’s possible the Guardians could be in play for him if Oakland looks to continue to press the gas pedal on its rebuild drive. It’s concerning that Laureano’s slugging percentage has dropped by .112 from 2021… roids, dead ball, small sample size? There are some significant questions there. However, if teams believe Laureano could become the player who hit 14 homers in 88 games in 2021 again, I imagine the Guardians would be one of the teams interested in acquiring him. He provides some nice flexibility to help in any outfield spot as well. I just don’t know if his bat has the pop the Guardians would be looking for.

Tyler O’Neill, 26.11 years old, LF, RH, St. Louis Under team control through 2024 – Projected for 2.3, 3.3 and 3.1 wins over the next three years, 72 wRC+, -2 DRS in the OF in 2022

Analysis: So, O’Neill put up a 144 wRC+ in 2021 and made himself look untouchable, and, so far, for 2022 has more than halved that number and made himself look, also, untouchable. St. Louis is a smart team so I don’t imagine they would sell low on O’Neill. But, would they sell him at a reasonable price? If so, I would be entirely in support of offering a couple higher-profile, near-ready prospects and a pitcher who could help St. Louis in the 2022 playoff push for O’Neill and counting on him to bounce back as a middle-of-the-order hitter. But, again, I find this move unlikely because the Cardinals are too smart to move O’Neill while he’s struggling… unless something is legitimately broken about him – in which case the Guardians would not want him.

Luis Castillo, 29.5 years old, RHP, Cincinnati, Under team control through 2023 – Projected for 4, 3.9, 3.6 wins for the next three years, 3.32 xERA, 3.32 FIP, 8.54/3 K/BB% for 2022.

Analysis: Everyone who needs pitching has targeted Castillo for their roster this season, so I find it EXTREMELY unlikely the Guardians would get in that crowded market for a player with only 1.5 years of control left. But, let’s just for a minute fantasize about the Guardians’ pitching folks getting their hands on a guy with Castillo’s stuff for a playoff push this year and next. (Pause). That was nice! Now, let’s move on because it’s not happening.

The Sharks
Anthony Santander, 27.7 years old, OF, SH, Baltimore, Under team control through 2024 – Projected for 1.5, 1.3, 1.2 wins over the next 3 years, 118 wRC+, 0 DRS in 2022. (Apparently unvaccinated so would not be able to go to Toronto)

Analysis: It turns out we had a decent outfielder on our team but Baltimore snagged him from us in the Rule 5. Santander is still fairly young and did put up an insane .575 SLG in 2020 that would be great for our lineup. However, there’s not a ton of upside/ceiling. He’s an above-average hitter who will profile just fine in right-field. Not sure how much Cleveland would be willing to give up for that kind of player, if anything, especially with Oscar Gonzalez tearing things up in Cleveland.

Brent Rooker, 27.6 years old, LF, RH, San Diego, Under team control for 6 more years – Projected for wOBA’s of .318, .320, .324 over the next three years, 119 wRC+ in Triple-A

Analysis: Think of Rooker, traded to San Diego from the Twins on Opening Day, 2022, as the anti-Steven Kwan. Rooker has little contact ability but immense slugging ability and offers nothing on defense. Is it possible the Guardians might be willing to add a player like this to the mix to stash in left-field? Caution – don’t look at his defensive numbers. They’re not good. Instead, focus on Triple-A slugging percentages of .535, .564, and .568 over the past three seasons there. If Cleveland saw something there, and I am not saying they should, then I imagine a fit could be found with the Padres as they try to push for a playoff berth in 2022.

Kyle Lewis, 26.10 years old, RF, RH, Seattle, Under team control through 2025 – Projected for 1.7, 1.7 and 1.6 WAR over the next three years, 107 wRC+ in 2021, he is recovering from a concussion right now

Analysis: Similarly to Rooker, Lewis is all about the slugging, but, unlike Rooker, he’s passable as a slightly-below average right-fielder. ZiPS projects him for a 112 wRC+  for the rest of 2022. Unfortunately, Lewis has been dealing with some concussion issues, but, if he recovers fully from that, as we all hope he does, might Seattle be open to trading a slightly older outfielder for a couple of younger prospects on the verge of helping now? I think DiPoto is always willing to talk potential deals; the question would be if Cleveland sees enough power upside in Lewis’s bat to prefer him to some of their contact-oriented options for right field for the upcoming three-year run.

Juan Yepez, 24.3 years old, OF, RH, St. Louis, Under team control for the next six years – Projected for 1.1, 1.1 and 1.2 WAR over the next three years, 128 wRC+ in 2022

Analysis: Well, Oscar Mercado provides a cautionary tale of trading for young Cardinals outfielders, but Yepez is certainly a power-hitting outfielder currently putting up a 122 wRC+ in 29 games for the Cardinals. I don’t see why the Cardinals would trade him, except that they, like the Guardians, are always trying to maximize their talent. So, if the Guardians saw Yepez as a real threat in the middle of a lineup kind of guy, they could probably sway the Cardinals with a couple major-league ready pieces and a prospect further down the line that they really like – but I don’t know if Yepez is worth that kind of cost to any team, much less the Guardians. Plus, Yepez seems to be becoming a hometown favorite with a special friendship with Albert Pujols, so there may be intangible value associated with him that would make a potential trade even less likely.

Jo Adell, 23, OF, RH, Los Angeles Angels, Under team control through 2026 – Projected for 0.6, 0.8, 0.9 WAR over the next three years, 96 wRC+ in 2022.

Analysis: Adell is an oft-rumored name as a potential outfielder available in a trade because he was a star prospect who has fallen out of favor due to an inability to make consistent contact in the majors. Those .590+ slugging numbers in Triple-A are awfully difficult to resist. The issue with looking at players like this is that, while I intrinsically trust the Guardians to get the most out of pitchers, they have little track record of doing that with hitters. However, if the Guardians feel that there are some tweaks they can make to get Adell to his power in the majors, I believe he’d be available for the right return for the Angels who will be looking for talent that can help in a 2022 playoff run and beyond. Adell is still a very young player, so, while a 63 wRC+ and a 32.7/4.3 K/BB% in the majors is a bad start, he’s still got time to figure it out.

Danny Jansen, 27.1 years old, Catcher, RH, Toronto – Under team control through 2024. Projected for 1.8, 1.8 and 1.7 WAR over the next three years. 164 wRC+, 0 DRS, -1.2 Framing Runs for 2022 so far in 18 games.

Analysis: (NOTE: Jansen is hurt right now with a broken finger. I don’t think that would prevent a trade). Jansen is having a very hot start to the year for Toronto, who has Gabriel Moreno and Alejandro Kirk behind him. I could have evaluated Kirk as a potential trade target, also, but his skillset is mainly contact, he’s questionable as a catcher option, and looks like the Blue Jays have long-term plans for him to me. So, I think Jansen is the best potential target. The Blue Jays are going for it in 2022, though, so the Guardians would have to trade pitching that could help Toronto now if they were able to put a package together for Jansen. Jansen was 1.3 Framing Runs above average in 2021, so it seems like he is mostly an average defensive catcher. The things that would make sense to me about a Jansen-type addition is that he is an offensive upgrade and would profile well as a back-up catcher for Naylor when and if Bo is ready. But, the fact he is tearing the cover off the ball right now makes it unlikely Toronto will move him, especially since after dealing Reese McGuire in the spring, trading Jansen might leave their catching ranks a little thinner than what they want.

Tom Murphy, 31.2 years old, Catcher, RH, Seattle, Under Team Control through 2024 – Projected for 1.3, 1.1, 0.9 WAR over the next three years. 87 wRC+, 1 DRS, -1.9 Framing Runs in 2021.

Analysis: Murphy is currently on the IL with a lingering shoulder issue, so he would need to get healthy by July to be considered. 31 is a bit old for a catcher and Murphy isn’t a defensive wiz. However, I could see the Guardians being interested in a veteran catcher that could be a solid backup for Bo Naylor if he comes up in 2023… just think more 27-29 years old would be their preferred range for that person, and, when it’s all said and done, they may prefer the backup catcher be a defensive god like Austin Hedges.

Carson Kelly, 27.10 years old, Catcher, RH, Arizona, Under Team Control through 2024 – Projected for 2.0, 1.9 and 1.9 WAR over the next three years.

Analysis: Kelly is having an ABSOLUTELY terrible 2022 as a hitter, with a -18 wRC+ in 22 games. Kelly is not a bad hitter, having put up a 103 wRC+ in 2021. This is exactly the kind of player I would love to see Cleveland try to acquire, as he is a solid defensive catcher and a good framer, and he’s also the perfect age to match-up with Bo Naylor’s timeline. Honestly, if I could pick any player to acquire on this whole list, it might be Kelly. There are three main reasons I find the move unlikely: (1) Arizona is likely not going to trade Kelly while he is struggling, (2) Arizona and Cleveland front offices do not seem to have good chemistry, and (3) Both teams are at a similar place in their team development phase – hanging around contention but looking more for 2023-2025 to really go for a playoff push. That makes matching up for talent exchanges especially challenging.

Some Major League Relief Arms of Note: The Guardians are demonstrating that they don’t have many issues with finding relief pitching from failed starters, so, I’d imagine they might target pitchers who can start if they want to make trades, but if they feel another proven, reliable presence is needed for the backend of the bullpen, there should be a few good arms available for the right price as listed below. Myself, I’d expect the Guardians to target guys with higher strikeout rates, or, conversely, low walk rates, and guys who are under 30 and under control through 2024 at least. Bednar, Banda, Arano, Rainey, Tate, Swanson and Staumont all fit these categories. 

David Bednar, 27.7 years old, RHP, Pittsburgh, Under team control through 2026 – 1.92 FIP, 12.33/1.67 K/BB/9
Chris Stratton, 31.9 years old, RHP, Pittsburgh, Under team control through 2023 – 2.56 FIP, 8.87/2.42 K/BB/9.
Anthony Banda, 28.10 years old, LHP, Pittsburgh, Under team control through 2026 – 3.98 FIP, 10.38/2.77 K/BB/9
Victor Arano, 27.4 years old, RHP, Washington, Under team control through 2026, 2.75 FIP, 9.64/1.54 K/BB/9.
Tanner Rainey, 29.5 years old, RHP, Washington, Under team control through 2025, 2.62 FIP, 10.38/3.12 K/BB/9.
Lou Trivino, 30.8 years old, RHP, Oakland, Under team control through 2024, 2.76 FIP, 14.18/4.73 K/BB/9 – Note: Trivino is getting absolutely rocked. Relievers are volatile, though, and can find it as easily as they lose it, and his stuff still looks good.
Paul Blackburn, 28.6 years old, RHP, Oakland, Under team control through 2026, 3.17 FIP, 6.79/2.16 K/BB/9.
Dillon Tate, 28.1 years old, RHP, Baltimore, Under team control through 2025, 2.96 FIP, 6.91/1.65 K/BB/9.
Keegan Akin, 27.2 years old, LHP, Baltimore, Under team control through 2027, 3.03 FIP, 7.57/2.92 K/BB/9.
Tanner Scott, 27.10, LHP, Miami, Under team control through 2024, 3.43 FIP, 13.72/5.31 K/BB/9
Erik Swanson, 28.9 years old, RHP, Seattle, Under team control through 2025, 2.21 FIP, 13.5/0.64 K/BB/9
Paul Sewald, 32.11 years old, RHP, Seattle, Under team control through 2024, 3.58 FIP, 8.41/3.10 K/BB/9.
Brett Martin, 27.1 years old, LHP, Texas, Under team control through 2025, 3.09 FIP, 7.71/2.89 K/BB/9.
Jeff Hoffman, 29.4 years old, RHP, Cincinnati, Under team control through 2024, 3.40 FIP, 9.79/4.39 K/BB/9.
Tyler Kinley, 31.4 years old, RHP, Colorado, Under team control through 2024, FIP 1.78, 9.82/2.05 K/BB/9.
Joe Mantiply, 31.3 years old, LHP, Arizona, Under team control through 2027, 1.57 FIP, 7.71/0.43 K/BB/9.
Josh Staumont, 28.5 years old, RHP, Kansas City, Under team control through 2025, 2.90 FIP, 11.76/4.79 K/BB/9.
Rowan Wick, 29.6 years old, RHP, Chicago Cubs, Under team control through 2025, 3.01 FIP, 10.17/4.30 K/BB/9.

This is the third part of a three-part series taking a look at possibilities for the 2022 MLB Trade Deadline for the Guardians. Today, we are looking at some prominent prospects who could help the Guardians fill organizational needs. Please note that these articles were written over a ten-day period so stats for these prospects were current as of June 6th.

Fish Still in the School:
A thought I’ve had is that, because of playoff expansion, teams may look to exchange prospects more than big leaguers. And, the Guardians may explore trades for position of need that could involve them giving up 2 players for a player who fills a hole on their roster (catcher or slugging outfielder, primarily). They also could look to exchange guys on the 40-man, or guys who will be Rule-5 eligible in December for guys who are 1 or more years away from Rule-5 eligibility. So, with those thoughts in mind, here are some names that interest me around the league:

Joey Wiemer, 23.3 years old, OF, RH, Milwaukee – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 50 – 136 wRC+ at Triple-A with a .574 SLG% – #2 in Milwaukee’s system, #85 Overall. Rule-5 eligible in 2023

Analysis: This is the kind of name who could be included in a Shane Bieber trade, but probably not in any other scenario because he is absolutely dominating the minors. I could see a scenario where Milwaukee wants to reload their system with a top pitching prospect and a couple other hitters from the Cleveland system and is willing to exchange Wiemar for that, but, otherwise, can’t see them parting with a guy who looks like he’s a future middle-of-the-order hitter and is not Rule-5 eligible for another year.

JJ Bleday, 24.6 years old, OF, LH, Miami – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 50 – 116 wRC+ at Triple-A with a .429 SLG% – #5 in Miami’s system and #95 Overall. Rule-5 eligible in 2022

Analysis: Bleday has seen a little jump in power and walks this season and seems like the kind of projectable bat Cleveland loves. Very similar to a Wiemer deal, Bleday is going to either be part of a deal for a valuable piece from Cleveland’s roster or multiple other top prospects from Cleveland to shore up the Marlins’ roster for their plans for an upcoming run.

Zac Veen, 20.5 years old, OF, LH, Colorado – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 50 – 135 wRC+ in High-A with .420 SLG% – #1 in Colorado’s system and #75 Overall. Rule-5 eligible in 2024

Analysis: Veen is a really good prospect, so why would Colorado deal him? Again, the theory would be that three good prospects from Cleveland could get a prospect like this back and reload a system like Colorado’s, or Veen would be part of a deal for Shane Bieber. I don’t find any of those scenarios particularly likely, as Veen is probably a little behind where the Guardians need their next slugger to be in development, and, also, the Rockies are probably too crazy to do something that would make sense like trading a top prospect for multiple prospects to make their future team, overall, better.

Alec Burleson, 23.6 years old, LH, OF, St. Louis – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 40 – 147 wRC+ in Triple-A with .574 SLG% – #17 in St. Louis’ system. Rule-5 eligible in 2023

Analysis: Burleson is exactly the kind of player I’d hope Cleveland would be looking to make a prospect exchange for – he’s got slugging potential, can play a corner-outfield spot, and isn’t Rule-5 eligible until 2023, so you give yourself some time to sort out other guys ahead of him in the development process and add him to the team in the summer of 2023 as needed. He only strikes out about 14% of the team, so he fits well into the current team philosophy (his defense isn’t great, but you’ve got Straw and Kwan, so you can help hide that). So, what do you say, St. Louis? How about players who can help you in the 2022 playoff run and maybe another lower-level prospect you like for Burleson?

James Outman, 25.1 years old, OF, LH, Los Angeles Dodgers – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 40 – 148 wRC+ with a .589 SLG% in Triple-A – #23 in Los Angeles’ system. Already on the 40-man for the Dodgers.

Analysis: You know the Dodgers are loaded, but you also know they are always looking to add major league pieces. What would they say to an elite bullpen arm for 2022 and a non-Rule-5 eligible guy for Outman? I like that Outman’s timeline is exactly on track with what the Guardians need for a power-hitting outfielder to help in 2023, he can start getting time in 2022 on the roster, and he’s not a bad fielder either. The Dodgers and Guardians, seemingly, talk all the time – let’s finally pull something off, already. 

Damon Keith, 22.9 years old, OF, RH, Los Angeles Dodgers – Drafted in 2021 – 154 wRC+ in low-A with a .506 SLG%. Rule-5 eligible in December of 2024

Analysis: This is the kind of move I could see Cleveland doing to relieve some of the 40-man crunch. Trade the Dodgers a solid relief arm for a player like Keith whom they can hold off on adding to the roster and bring up the power he’s flashing in a year or two. Keith also seems like a very toolsy player, which the Guardians seem to like.

Ryan Ward, 24.3 years old, OF, LH, Los Angeles Dodgers – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 35+ – 95 wRC+ in Double-A with a .506 SLG% – #41 in the Dodgers’ system – Rule-5 eligible in December of 2022

Analysis: The best thing I can say about the Ward possibility is that the Dodgers should be fine to look at moving him for another prospect piece they like (again, maybe as part of a deal for an arm who can help in 2022), and he has some solid slugging potential. He doesn’t move the needle a lot, but he’s the kind of player than broadens the slugging abilities of the Cleveland system and offers some security in case Kwan, Palacios and Nolan Jones don’t show the ability to get to doubles-homers power consistently.

Corey Julks, 26.3 years old, OF, RH, Houston – 108 wRC+ in Triple-A with a .541 SLG% – Rule-5 eligible now

Analysis: There are a variety of folks like Julks around the minors that offer some power potential but have a variety of flaws/are late-boomers. The Guardians could pursue someone like that and give them a shot to show some power for the rest of 2022. But, I have a feeling the team would prefer to look at their own options like Gonzalez, Palacios, Jones, Benson and Call than give up a minimal prospect and try to find a 40-man spot for a guy like Julks. But, his power jump this season with a reasonable .294 BABIP is interesting.

Elijah Dunham, 24.8 years old, OF, LH, New York Yankees – 119 wRC+ in Double-A with a .493 SLG% – Rule-5 eligible in 2023

Analysis: While I hate the idea of potentially helping the Yankees, Dunnam’s age is right to help the Guardians with some homers in 2023 and wouldn’t need to be added to the roster right away. If the Yankees see a current guy on the Guardians 40 or one who will be eligible this December who could help them now, there could be a fit there.

Stone Garrett, 26.6 years old, OF, RH, Arizona – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 40 – 131 wRC+ with a .621 SLG% at Triple-A – Currently Rule-5 eligible

Analysis: Tell me you don’t want a slugger whose first name is Stone hitting bombs in the middle of your lineup. Tell me that .621 slugging percentage in Triple-A doesn’t make you salivate a little bit. Arizona has some outfield talent ahead of him, so, again, the Guardians might be able to make an exchange for a pitcher the Diamondbacks like if they think this late break of a power surge is real for Garrett. Again, however, there isn’t really a history of much chemistry between these front offices.

Yosy Galan, 20.1 years old, OF, RH, Texas – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 35+ – 123 wRC+ and .456 SLG% at Low-A – Rule-5 eligible in 2024

Analysis: Personally, I love Galan as another Joey Gallo with potentially better contact skills. He’s another example of several outfielders who are years away from Rule-5 eligibility who could help increase the slugging potential of the Cleveland system if the Rangers are interested in a prospect who is currently on the Guardians-40 or who will be eligible this December.

Logan O’Hoppe, 22.3 years old, RH, Catcher, Philadelphia – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 45 – 173 wRC+ with a .583 SLG% in Double-A – Rule-5 eligible this December

Analysis: O’Hoppe looks like a major-league catcher of the future, so, I imagine the only way Cleveland pursues someone like that is if they have doubts about Bo Naylor. Philadelphia is an interesting team because they seem dedicated to win now, and need some more major-league ready talent, especially in the pitching area. So, I do think there would be a potential fit here, but I do think Cleveland probably believes in Bo Naylor and just needs more of a backup type with some hitting ability and starting ceiling rather than to expend resources pursuing a catching prospect who is around Naylor’s level.

Donny Sands, 26.1 years old, RH, Catcher, Phi – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 40 – 158 wRC+ with a .462 SLG% in Triple-A – On the 40-man already

Analysis: Sands is my personal favorite of the minor-league options because he is not a catcher who profiles as a must-start in the major leagues. He’s reportedly made great progress on framing and has solid hitting ability. If you have Naylor, Sands, Lavastida, and Fry, you would feel like you’ve got good depth for catcher for the next three years. And, as said above, Philadelphia needs a lot of help.

Tres Barrea, 27.8 yeards old, RH, Catcher, Washington – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 35+ – 147 wRC+ with a .534 SLG% in Triple-A – On the 40-man

Analysis: Barrea is a backup catcher who can hit. It might be fun to try one of those for a change!

Nerio Rodriguez, 22.8 years old, RH, Catcher, Colorado – 151 wRC+ with a .550 SLG% in High-A – Eligible for Rule 5

Analysis: Rodriguez has absolutely broken out at the plate somewhat late for his level. Cleveland could look for a player like this to add some hitting potential to their collection of minor-league catchers. The problem is that Rodriguez requires Rule-5 protection, so they’d need to project him to help in 2022, which seems unlikely.

Diego Cartaya, 20.8 years old, RH, Catcher, Los Angeles Dodgers – FanGraphs’ Future Value: 50 – 150 wRC+ with a .550 SLG% in Low-A having just moved up to High-A (where he is also mashing). Rule-5 eligible this December

Analysis: Cartaya is an elite prospect that FanGraphs has described as having “a Salvador Perez starter kit.” So, why do I list him here? This is the kind of player you target if you decide to trade Shane Bieber in 2022. I’m not saying the Guardians should do that, but this is the player you try to get if so.

Utility/1Bman – All of these players are sluggers who could help Cleveland either with a move to the outfield in some cases or if the Guardians aren’t happy with the Josh Naylor (or Nolan Jones/Owen Miller) fit at first base.

Buddy Kennedy, 23.7 years old, 3B/2B, RH, Arizona – 35 FV – #47 in Arizona’s system – 108 wRC+ with a .432 SLG% in Triple-A. Rule-5 eligible. I believe Kennedy could hack it in leftfield. He has some interesting right-handed slugging potential, so I included him on this list.

Coby Mayo, 20.5 years old, RH, 3B, Baltimore – 50 FV – #6 in Baltimore’s system and #73 overall – 100 wRC+ with a .466 SLG in High-A. Rule-5 eligible in 2024 – He’s 6’5” so I wonder if a move to RF is possible. Would obviously be part of a blockbuster move to land a great prospect like this, but Baltimore is gearing up for 2023 and beyond…

David McKinnon, 27.5 years old, 1B, RH, Los Angeles Angels – 157 wRC+ with a .632 SLG% in Triple-A. Rule-5 eligible

Darick Hall, 26.10 years old, 1B, LH, Philadelphia – 132 wRC+ with a .532 SLG% in Triple-A. Rule-5 eligible.

Pitchers – I primarily bring up pitchers here because I think it’s POSSIBLE, but unlikely, that the Guardians could deal Shane Bieber for a starter they believe has potential to be the next great starting pitcher (and additional pieces) to a team hoping to make a playoff push in 2022. So, these names are presented with that scenario in mind.

Brandon Walter, 25.8 years old, LHP, Bos – xFIP 2.36, 12.24/0.54 K/BB/9 in Double-A in 2022 – Got lit up in his first Triple-A start. Walter isn’t necessarily a Bieber piece but has numbers that seem very Guardians-like. Maybe could exchange a prospect on the 40-man that Boston liked a lot for him?

Owen White, 22.9 years old, RHP, Texas – Team Rank #5, Overall Rank #90 – xFIP 3.46, 12.02/3.15 at High-A.

Max Meyer, 23.2 years old, RHP, Miami – Overall Rank 58, FV: 50 – xFIP – 3.92 9.98/3.18 K/BB/9 in Triple-A. Rule-5 eligible in 2023. Meyer makes your eyes pop at his velocity and seems like the kind of pitcher whose value Cleveland could really maximize (get it?).

Jose Butto, 24.2 years old, RHP, New York Mets – Team Rank: 14, FV: 40 – 3.69 xFIP, 12.43/3.64 K/BB/9 at Double-A.

Gavin Stone, 23.7 years old, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers – Team Rank: 21, FV: 40+ – 1.81 xFIP, 13.5/1.13 K/BB/9 at Double-A.

I have chosen not to analyze all possible minor-league relief arms that the Guardians could target because this article would then go well beyond novel-length. Suffice it to say that every organization has relief arms that don’t need Rule-5 protection that the Guardians could probably acquire in the right deal.

An Alternate Trade Strategy Possibility:
Perhaps the Guardians are happy with their current group, but there are players whom they like less than others. They could choose a few of those players to trade for rookie-level players they like who won’t be Rule-5 eligible for a 2-3 years. I focused this piece on potential trades that could for 2023-2025, but they could also look to reallocate value into the next wave of young players behind the current wave by trading some pieces that don’t fit as well to find younger players they can develop.

The “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE” – Kevin Garnett Scenario
The Guardians trade their top 10 prospects for Juan Soto and it’s still a steal for Cleveland but also wipes out their farm in an impossible manner. Washington isn’t trading Soto, guys, and if they were, the Dodgers would offer 10 prospects cumulatively better than the 10 Cleveland could offer.

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