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CLEVELAND — The Guardians are coming off a rough stretch against the Red Sox, Twins, Yankees and Tigers after having an exciting road trip in Colorado, Los Angeles and Minnesota. What does this mean for the team moving forward?
Let’s try to answer some questions in this week’s Guardians Inbox:
Do any Trade Deadline plans change with the current slump? I’m sure Amed Rosario and other young middle infielders could make a good package.
Maybe some plans change on what the Guardians will target in return for some possible trade candidates, but regardless of their standing as the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline rolls around, the team still has an overflow of middle infielders that needs to be addressed. Rosario, Andr?s Gim?nez, Ernie Clement, Owen Miller, Gabriel Ar?as, Tyler Freeman and Brayan Rocchio all being Major League ready (or close to it) is difficult to balance. The Guardians need to figure out who’s worth keeping in their future plans and who can be used as trade bait to better other aspects of their current roster and farm system.
It’s likely that trades will happen no matter what Cleveland’s record is, but if the team is slipping more and more out of contention for 2022, it may be easier to just focus on talent that can help in ’23 and beyond rather than try to determine if a rental is needed to help make a run this season.
Should we trade a prospect and one of our catchers for a way better catcher?
Prepare for Willson Contreras‘s name to pop up in some trade rumors for the Guardians. It would be a bigger splash than we’ve seen the team make at the Deadline in the past few years, but it certainly couldn’t hurt to get a backstop who can make a bigger impact offensively than the club has had the past few seasons.
Are there any rumors swirling about the Guardians acquiring a starting pitcher? It feels like we are a year to 18 months away from the next wave being able to help. At the moment, it feels like we have three No. 5 starters (beyond Triston McKenzie).
We’re just slightly early for trade rumor time, but don’t be surprised if the Guardians do check in on some starters. Luis Castillo could be a solid fit in Cleveland (among a handful of others). Although the team has plenty of exciting prospects making their way through the Minor League system, it may be a little longer until they’re Major League ready, like you said. And it’s never a bad thing to have too many quality starting options.
What is the deal with Shane Bieber? He has looked merely average-to-above-average for a long time now.
This is a difficult question to answer. I think the simplest place to start is Bieber’s velocity. We’ve talked about it countless times at this point since he showed up in Spring Training averaging more than three miles per hour slower than he did in his Cy Young season in 2020 and two miles per hour slower than last year. While Bieber and his coaching staff never seemed concerned about this dip, it has yet to tick back up … and now we’re in July.
It’s probably no coincidence that Bieber has now started to go away from his heater more in his outings, relying on his curve and slider more often than the four-seamer in his past few starts. Not having the fastball, which has been his for a .309 clip this year, as a reliable option obviously makes it difficult to set up any of his other pitches.
Here are a few other things that have been concerning and can be something to keep an eye on moving forward:
K%: 67th percentile
Expected ERA: 45th percentile
Expected batting average: 30th percentile
Expected slugging percentage: 36th percentile
Who will be the first guy called up from Triple-A or Double-A?
I’m not sure how accurate my crystal ball is, but I’m going to go with No. 7 prospect Nolan Jones as the next man up. There may be a handful of relievers to rotate in and out, but the next big callup seems to be lining up for Jones, who has played well since coming off the injured list and could have an opportunity to make an impact in the outfield for the Guardians.
Why is Jhonkensy Noel playing RF for the Rubber Ducks?
Noel has played mostly third base, but as assistant general manager James Harris explained last week, the team’s plan is to try to make as many of its top prospects as versatile as possible. The organization wants to see if he could get an opportunity in the outfield quicker than the infield, which has led to him seeing some time in the corner outfield spots.
We’ve known for most of the season that Josh Naylor has been more or less still recovering from last year’s injury. How close is he to 100%?
The Guardians didn’t hide the fact that Naylor wasn’t 100% to start the season. He opened the year in Triple-A to get some extra reps after he was eased into Spring Training, but once he joined the big league roster, manager Terry Francona said that we’ll see Naylor limping from time to time still. It’s hard to say how close he is to 100%. He’s certainly over 50% or he wouldn’t be back in the lineup. If we’re guessing, let’s go with a comfortable 75%, considering he’s shown how much he’s struggled with sliding, stopping himself when he’s running and just moving around in general.
In 2023, barring injury, the two middle infielders playing on Opening Day are …?
I’m going to go with Gim?nez and Ar?as. But this could change based on possible trades.