In front of us are at least four different ways that the Guardians could use to improve their squad for not just 2023, but beyond. Although in all of these deals they must trade young, promising talent, they will also return young talent that is Major League ready and fits their future plans by either meshing with the organization’s philosophy or by filling some glaring needs that could really put Cleveland over the top.
All of these trades provide varying degrees of realism and intrigue. In a perfect world, the Guardians would come out of this winter with two of these deals closed. Those deals to me would be bringing in both Sean Murphy and Garrett Cooper. In doing so, the Guardians would not compromise their defensive strength behind the plate but would significantly improve offensively at the catcher’s role. Cooper could play most days, either facing lefties in lieu of Naylor or rotating into the designated hitter spot. Having both would give the Guardians a strong lineup that goes eight deep in the batting order, leaves Straw as a defense-first center-fielder hitting ninth and simply allows the team at least one more offensive option.
If the Guardians strike out at acquiring Murphy, then Stephenson is a really interesting backup plan. The organization will need to be willing to pay for him and will need to be willing to deal with his less stellar glove work behind the plate. He would likely require a strong defensive backup behind him and they may look to get him reps at first base, which may move the acquisition of Cooper into question. All that said, he is a surefire way to actually make sure the Guardians get offensive production from the catcher’s position.
At this point, Reynolds is arguably the most talented of the bunch, but he is also likely the most sought-after and therefore, the most expensive. He would look awesome in the middle of the Guardians order protecting Ramirez, but with every competitive team in baseball interested, including those with way more financial resources than Cleveland, his addition may have turned to a pipe dream the minute he declared that he wanted to be traded.
Granted, there’s still the chance that all fans’ worst fears may occur and the Guardians do nothing. Remember though, Cleveland is home to the reigning Executive of the Year… who was criticized for doing nothing last winter. This year is different, and the team is likely to try to capitalize on an added minority owner and the additional revenue incurred by hosting playoff games. Still, regardless of what the team does, expect them to be better in 2023 just off of the experience of 2022.
Sure would be nice to have Sean Murphy though…