Explaining What A Guardians Trade Candidate Looks Like And Four They Should Consider

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Off to one of the best starts in the team’s 124-year history, the Cleveland Guardians are a team draped in October potential. As I write this during the Guardians’ Tuesday, June 11th victory vs. the Cincinnati Reds, they reside squarely in first place in the division and a full 4.5 games up on the Kansas City Royals. They’ve done this despite significant injuries over the course of the first 2+ months and while competing in the much-improved American League Central Division.

It’s fair to say, things are looking up. And they’ve been looking up for long enough that a deep run in the playoffs feels completely feasible. When in this position at this time in the season, it is time to consider what trades may be invented to make that deep playoff run even closer to reality. The rumors have already started, with reports coming out this past week that the Guardians have or will make overtures to the Toronto Blue Jays, particularly about shortstop Bo Bichette.

Today, improving a team via deals around the deadline is more difficult than it was ten years ago. For one, the league’s move to push the amateur draft back to the All-Star Break from the first week of June means that teams are spending more time splitting their concentration between these two events. Time post-early June used to be able to be solely dedicated to trade season. Additionally, an expanded playoff system that includes 12 teams in total creates more optimism among teams hovering in mediocrity, even below the .500 mark. Buyers and sellers aren’t nearly as defined as they used to be. That leads to tough decisions for teams. The Guardians felt this themselves, selling last year while only a few games back at the deadline, then momentarily trying to improve the team by claiming Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Matt Moore at the end of August(all from the Angels, who had their own even more dramatic foray with this type of indecisiveness last season).

The waters are muddied. Buyers sometimes sell while buying. Buyers sometimes buy from other buyers. Trades needs to me more creative. There is more hedging- particularly for a team in Cleveland’s financial bracket.

I say all of this, to make a general statement about what the team is up against, as it colors the type of players they are likely to add. The Guardians’ recent history suggests to me that while they are looking to add, they’re most intrigued by:

  1. Low-risk veterans with shorter contracts (one-year rentals or two-year deals) where they can possibly have their previous team pay for some of their salary (Yasiel Puig, the aforementioned Giolito/Moore/Lopez combination).
  2. Young but Major League-ready players with promise but their original team doesn’t have a position for them or there is something in their profile their original team isn’t sold on (Franmil Reyes, Josh Naylor).

In the past, bonus points were given if the Guardians were able to also get prospects back. This was largely because they were trading their own veterans in deals, looking to return young talent. However, this is Cleveland’s third straight year as the youngest team in the sport, and pretty much every remaining veteran is an integral part of the team right now. The only guys that are on the roster and fit the right veteran profile to be sent away in a trade would be:

  1. Scott Barlow, but that would weaken the bullpen, which has been the team’s biggest strength.
  2. Josh Naylor, letting prospect Kyle Manzardo take over at first base. This action would mean trading away the clean-up hitter on a first-place ball-club, likely causing fans to march on Carnegie and Ontario in the process.

Fans shouldn’t have their pitchforks at the ready though. I don’t think either player gets dealt. This team has too much going for it right now, and Barlow and Naylor are too impactful to the team’s strengths for them to be moved in the name of improving the team. Instead, the Guardians are going to need to deal from their own prospect pool to improve this roster, and I think its is likely that they will.

However, while the assets they will use to get return value will be different, I think the profile of the player they will seek is still similar. As much as I’d love them to pursue someone like Kyle Tucker (imagine that guy hitting fourth between Hosey and Naylor) or Justin Verlander, I believe they will make a quality move or two, just not with a headlining name involved. The trade-off in depleting their minor league ranks and affecting their longer-term sustainability as a quality team just isn’t worth it.

So with all that said, here are a few under-the-radar candidates that I have come up with that they could pursue. In no way am I doing anything resembling reporting here. I know of no conversations between the Guardians and other teams about these players, but they fit a profile and could potentially help the Guards advance in 2024.

#1 SP Tyler Anderson, Los Angeles Angels

Anderson is a 34-year old veteran left-handed starter that has pitched well enough to be the Angels’ ace so far this season, pitching to a 2.63 ERA in 13 starts. After spending the first six seasons of his career as a perfectly average starter with a 4.62 ERA (literally a 100 ERA+), Anderson signed with the Dodgers in 2022 and developed a killer changeup. He pitched to a 2.57 ERA for the Dodgers in 2022, making his only All-Star appearance and earning himself a three-year contact at $13 million per year with the Angels in the following off-season. Anderson has kept up the strong work in Anaheim, particularly here in 2024.

It is no secret that the Guardians need to add to their starting rotation. They’ve done well to get by with Tanner Bibee, a somehow reclaimed Ben Lively, an aging but wily Carlos Carrasco, a struggling-at-times Logan Allen and a homer-prone Triston McKenzie, but they rank 18th in starter’s ERA and second to last in starter’s HR/9. The Guards have leaned on the best bullpen in baseball heavily, with four relievers already making 30 appearances. That bullpen should remain strong, but it would do a lot to provide them some support via more effective and lengthy starting pitching performances.

Anderson averages more than six innings per start and is pitching to the level of effectiveness that you would hope for in an ace this season. He would do a lot to bolster the starting rotation, and based off Baseball Trade Values, is actually considered a negative asset due to his age and contract. The Angels may even pay some portion of the deal. Adding Anderson feels achievable.

#2 IF Jared Triolo, Pittsburgh Pirates

Admittedly, you’re probably wondering who exactly this is. A move for Triolo would be a smaller one, but this suggestion still serves a purpose. Triolo is a 26-year-old rookie currently on the Pirates roster who is a third baseman by trade and a former second-round pick in 2019. He;s evolved into a glove-first player as he’s progressed through the professional baseball and as such, his offensive numbers thus far are pretty mild in MLB (.255/.338/.339, 6 homers in 426 MLB plate appearances in ’23 and ’24). Still, his glove plays in the bigs and the Pirates are in a situation where they already have a young third baseman locked up into the future in Ke’Bryan Hayes. The Guardians development staff also seems to have turned a corner in teaching hitters to hit for more power. Perhaps they could mold Triolo.

One thing I have noticed about the Guardians this year is that as much as Jose Ramirez is the present and future star of this team, the metrics suggest that he is slowing down a little in the field. On top of that, Gabriel Arias is the other player on the roster with significant time at the hot corner, and despite having a cannon for an arm that he loves to show off at every opportunity, he too hasn’t been a very good third baseman by the metrics.

I’m not a lunatic. I am not advocating for the Guardians to trade for Jared Triolo and have him replace arguably the best player in recent team history. But I am advocating for Triolo to take Arias’s spot. Triolo actually has the better career OPS+ of the two (91 vs. 72, albeit in about 100 fewer PAs) while playing better defense. Hosey could spend more days at DH and could be spelled with more confidence when needed.

#3 3B/OF Taylor Ward, Los Angeles Angels

Ward is an Ohio native, 30 years old and right-handed at the plate. Another Angel, he has posted consistently strong numbers when healthy over the course of the last four years. He has a 117 OPS+ over these 3.5 seasons while averaging 23 home runs per 150 games played. Unfortunately, health has been an issue at some point in all of the last three seasons, but Ward has not missed significant time in 2024 since his return this April from a harrowing face fracture in July of 2023. The injury did not zapped Ward’s ability or nerve, as he has smacked 11 home runs in 64 games since his return.

Ward would add a reliable right-handed hitter to the Guardians’ outfield and possibly settle the ongoing mystery that has been right-field over the last few seasons. Currently hitting 3rd for Los Angeles, Ward could hit second or anywhere between fifth and seventh and would help lengthen the Guardians’ batting order. He could also work in at third base in a similar idea to what I had been thinking with Triolo. The Guardians clearly value versatility on their roster, and Ward would contribute to this as well.

He is also one of the loftier names on my list, with the Guardians likely needing to supply some significant talent to receive him. Ward is currently in his first year of arbitration, so the Angels aren’t necessarily in a place where they have to give him up just yet with two more years of team control to come. Still, they are also one of the worst teams in baseball, again failing to surround an injured Mike Trout with talent. Ward could be ripe for the picking in the right scenario, but he might be the hardest name in this list to get due to the appeal of his contract situation and how he’d likely also be sought after heavily by other teams.

#4 SP Luis Severino, New York Mets

Severino is a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher who has spent his entire Major League career in New York, although this is his first season with the Mets. Severino was a Yankee starting in 2016, but hadn’t been healthy enough to pitch more than 19 games in a season since 2018. This lack of stability encouraged the Bombers to allow him to walk this off-season, and Severino signed a one-year “prove it” deal with the Mets. He has been excellent thus far, pitching to a 3.25 ERA, making all 12 of his scheduled starts and holding down the fort as the Mets de facto ace.

As I’ve documented before, the Mets are not long for October baseball. Having Severino pitch out the remainder of the season on their team feels like a lost opportunity to try to sell him at a really good time, and the Guardians could very well be a benefactor of this. Severino would absolutely be a rental, he’s likely pitched well enough to get a multi-year deal in the winter, but he is exactly the type of pitcher the Guards could bring in to pitch deep into ballgames down the stretch and in the playoffs.

If the Guardians traded for him tomorrow, he could join Bibee and a healthy Gavin Williams to create a formidable starting rotation trio down the stretch (the same would be the case with Anderson, to be fair), Even with his injury history, Severino made 10 playoff starts for the Yankees over his time with the team, so he is not without big-game experience- something this rotation could also really use. If healthy, he could legitimately be a difference-maker, even if only for three to four months. Of the players I have named, he would be my preferred trade target.

These are just four of a plethora of potential trade candidates the Guardians could pursue (I may do another one of these) as they try to reach baseball supremacy for the first time in 76 years. They will face the many challenges I listed, as well as the competition that comes with a trade deadline and other teams competing for the same available ballplayers. However, as I have shown, there are ways for this team to get creative. There are clear and present positions the team could improve- whether its at the margins with someone like Triolo or installing an ace like Severino. There is certainly means to do it.

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