Bell Newsletter: Opening Day takeaways

April 08, 2022

Hello and welcome to the Guardians’ Newsletter! Just a reminder: I’m Mandy Bell and this is my fourth year covering Cleveland for MLB.com. I’m excited to bring all things Guardians directly to your inbox all year. Thanks for following along!

TAKEAWAYS FROM OPENING DAY

A 3-1 loss to the Royals on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium surely isn’t the outcome the Guardians were hoping for. The script followed the same storyline the team has fallen into countless times over the past few seasons: Solid pitching, shaky defense and little offense. Now they’ll need to figure out a way to prevent this from becoming commonplace.

But there’s more to just one game than having reasons for concern. One of the reassuring takeaways for the team was that Shane Bieber, although not completely stretched out to his regular pitch count just yet, looked sharp through 4 2/3 frames, giving up one run (from a double on a fly ball dropped by Amed Rosario in left) on three hits with four strikeouts. If the team is trying to find ways to remain in contention, it will need its starting rotation, especially its ace, to be just as dominant as ever. And for anyone worrying that his velocity was down, Bieber insists it’s not a problem, noting cold conditions early in the year don’t make it easy to crank his heater up to the mid 90s.

We also got a glimpse of the impressive bat-to-ball skills of Steven Kwan, who drew two walks and logged a single without whiffing at a pitch in his Major League debut. While there was concern he may go back to the Minors once Josh Naylor is ready to join the big league team, that faded after the club announced it traded Bradley Zimmer to the Blue Jays in exchange for righty Anthony Castro after the game.

This isn’t just focusing on the rainbows and butterflies. Clearly the Guardians will need to play more sound defense and find ways to get offensive production than just Jose Ramirez, who provided Cleveland’s lone run on Thursday. The Guardians have a lot of work ahead.

A TRADE? NO WAY, JOSE

Get ready for more home run pitches and helmets flying off on the basepaths, because Jose Ramirez isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The All-Star third baseman has reportedly been locked up to a five-year, $124 million extension with a full no-trade clause, keeping him in a Guardians uniform until at least 2028.

This is unprecedented territory for Cleveland, considering the club had never handed out a contract larger than Edwin Encarnacion’s three-year, $60 million deal in 2017.

It seems pretty self-explanatory as to why the Guardians would want to keep Ramirez for as long as possible, but let’s go over a few reasons anyway.

Since coming up in 2013 and being looked at as simply a utility man early in his career, Ramirez has emerged into one of the best players in the Majors. In the past five years, he’s finished in the top six of the American League MVP Award vote four times (three of which were in the top three). In that span, he’s brought home three Silver Sluggers and has been named to three All-Star Games — all while being the heartbeat of Cleveland’s lineup year in and year out.

IN THE NEWS

Some stories I’ve written in the past week, in case you’ve missed them:

Eight years ago, outfielder Steven Kwan couldn’t have imagined getting through his freshman baseball season at Oregon State. Now he made the Opening Day roster.

The 2022 season is underway, so let’s make some predictions about the Guardians.

Ramirez wasn’t the only player to get an extension. Closer Emmanuel Clase’s extension was finalized on Thursday.

A FEW MUST READS FROM AROUND BASEBALL

Now that the regular season is here, MLB.com experts take educated guesses to predict this season’s stat leaders and World Series champion.

We saw MLB’s top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. make his Major League debut Thursday. Reporters Anne Rogers and Sam Dykstra give the lowdown on his journey to the big leagues and what to expect from him moving forward.

TRIVIA

Shane Bieber made his third consecutive Opening Day start, beginning a streak after 2014 and ’17 AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber took the ball for the season opener in five straight seasons. But let’s see how well you remember Kluber’s journey to Cleveland. Who were the other Major League players traded in the three-team deal that brought Kluber to Northeast Ohio?

A. Jake Westbrook and Russell Branyan
B. Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco
C. Tyler Greene and Luke Gregerson
D. Jake Westbrook and Ryan Ludwick

RANDOM QUESTION TIME

MLB.com researcher Sarah Langs is one of the best in the business (and is my best friend). I constantly message her, “Random Question Time!” warning her that my brain has come up with the most random stat-related question that I need help researching. But not all of these factoids make it into my stories. Thankfully, this can be a place where her efforts are recognized.

This week, we take a look at how young this Opening Day roster is. The late addition of 34-year-old Bryan Shaw caused the average age to skew a little bit older than it originally looked like it would be, however the team still has only two players in their 30s.

Thanks to a combined effort from Sarah and the Elias Sports Bureau, we have some insight:

These 28 players were an average of 26 years, 253 days old on Thursday, making it the fifth youngest Opening Day roster in MLB over the past 30 years by average age:

1998 Marlins — 26 years, 64 days

1999 Marlins — 26 years, 167 days

2006 Marlins — 26 years, 172 days

1995 Expos — 26 years, 248 days

The only teams in the past 30 years to have as few as two players 30+ years old on the date of their season opener are:

1997 Pirates (Dale Svuem, Kevin Elster)

1998 Marlins (Jim Eisenreich, John Cangelosi)

1999 Marlins (Dennis Springer, Kirt Ojala)

2000 Marlins (Ricky Bones, Alex Fernandez)

TRIVIA ANSWER

D: The Padres shipped Kluber to Northeast Ohio as part of a three-team trade, as Cleveland sent Jake Westbrook to St. Louis, San Diego moved Nick Greenwood to the Cardinals and St. Louis sent Ryan Ludwick to the Padres.

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