Tuesday brought Major League Baseball’s trade deadline and with it, one final trade for our Cleveland Guardians before the moratorium on player swaps came at 6 PM Eastern. The final minutes of the deadline saw the Guardians trade 1B/DH Josh Bell to the Miami Marlins for IF Jean Segura and minor league IF Khalil Watson.

Bell is the headliner of this deal, but I use that word loosely. He was signed in the off-season by the Guardians as a hitter with power potential to help bolster what was a contact-heavy but power-light offense in 2022. The Guardians signed him to a one-year $19 million deal (with a player option for 2024) with hopes he could fill the middle of the order and elevate the Guardians’ offense. Unfortunately, Bell struggled in his time with the Guardians slugging just a paltry .383 with 11 home runs in 97 games. The Marlins will bring him in hoping they can jump-start his production. Miami is looking to add offense to a ballclub that came into Tuesday’s play just one game out of the National League Wild Card race.

In return, the Guardians receive minor league prospect infielder Kahlil Watson. The acquisition of Watson continues to display Cleveland’s affinity for middle infield prospects. He is a left-handed hitter and former first-round draft pick of the Marlins in 2021, coming out of Wake Forest High School in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

His star has lowered some though as he has joined pro ball. MLB.com listed Watson as the 25th-best prospect in all of baseball before the 2022 season. He would go on to cultivate a pretty pedestrian slash-line of .233/.306/.406 between Rookie and A ball in ’22 and would not reappear on MLB.com’s list for 2023. 2022 would also see him face team-imposed disciplinary action for an altercation with an umpire during a game. Still, Fangraphs listed him as the Marlins’ 8th-best prospect this past May.

While not a complete reclamation project, Watson will report to Single-A Lake County for the Guardians with a need to prove he is still capable of once lofty expectations. He is hitting just .206 and slugging just .363 with seven home runs at High A this year. Guardians President Chris Antonetti lauded him in an interview on Tuesday, referencing his athleticism multiple times.

The Guardians also received Segura in the deal but the veteran infielder was immediately released upon completion of the transaction. Segura had been woeful for the Marlins this year, slashing just .219/.277/.279 in 85 games. He will be replaced on the Marlins’ roster by Bell and while Bell hasn’t necessarily been the dangerous power threat the Guardians had hoped, he still poses an upgrade in this instance. Segura’s inclusion in this deal (rather than merely being designated for assignment by Miami) was purely financial. In exchange for the upgrade to Bell, the Marlins will pay Bell’s remaining salary for the season while the Guardians will take on payments for Segura unless he is claimed (which, given his production, is very unlikely). This is an exchange of about $3.25 million between the two teams with the Guardians clearing that money off their books. The Marlins had been obligated to Segura for 2024 and Bell is likely to opt in next year as well. This exchange would ensure the Guardians pay $6 million less next year by paying Segura instead of Bell.

As for what this means for the Guardians moving forward, it is clear that Antonetti and the rest of the front office believe that the pathway for the remainder of the season is to open up opportunities for the laundry list of young players that remain on the roster. Between last week’s trade of shortstop Amed Rosario and Tuesday’s trade of Bell, two positions on the field that were held by veteran ballplayers have been opened up. The likes of Gabriel Arias, Tyler Freeman, David Fry and Oscar Gonzalez all stand to see more playing time at either shortstop, first base, or designated hitter. The trades can also be seen as a statement of how the front office feels about the team’s chances of post-season success in 2023. As the team did not add any Major League talent at the deadline, it is clear that they wouldn’t turn their nose up at the late-season success that could come from this youth movement. They are planning for success further down the line.

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