For the 75th consecutive season (sigh), fans of the Cleveland Guardians are left to think about next year. It’s happening a little earlier this season than in some others, but the recent trades and injuries have rendered them ill-equipped to make a serious run in 2023. But where does it leave them for 2024?
Much of 2024 depends on what we see over the next two months from the Cleveland Guardians
Start with the pitching staff. Rookies Gavin Williams and Tanner Bibee have staked strong claims to be part of the next great Cleveland Guardians rotation, with ERAs under 3 and performances that at times have been dominant. Logan Allen has been nearly as good, if not as consistent. One goal for the remainder of this season is for Shane Bieber, Tristan McKenzie, and Cal Quantrill to regain their health and form from 2022, so that the front office can determine whether further reinforcements are needed … or, in Bieber’s case, to possibly maximize his trade value.
If Cleveland goes into spring training with the starting shortstop job still up for grabs, it will probably mean that nobody took charge in 2023, which would negate one potential benefit of the Amed Rosario trade. Gabriel Arias, Brayan Rocchio, and Tyler Freeman have all shown enough to merit consideration, but none seems ready to solidify the position for 162 games. All three are likely to be on the MLB roster next year, but, with the other three infield spots in capable hands, two of them will be limited to fill-in roles.
Another hope for the rest of this season is that either Will Brennan or Oscar Gonzalez grabs the right field job. They project as a decent platoon combo, but in a lineup where Myles Straw has to hit ninth and shortstop and catcher will be manned by unproven players, whoever plays right field will likely hit in the middle of the order, so a ceiling of “decent” probably won’t cut it. Unless one of these guys steps up over the next two months, right field is probably one place where the Guardians will focus their trade chips in the offseason.
Finally, it would be good to at least see Kyle Manzardo swing a bat before the end of this season, preferably in Cleveland, but at least in Triple-A Columbus. As a lefty-hitting first baseman who came in a trade from Tampa Bay, Manzardo will be thought of as the second coming of Jake Bauers by Cleveland fans until they can see with their own eyes that this trade will work out better than trading Yandy Diaz for Bauers in 2019. With Aaron Civale having been traded to acquire Manzardo, fans are not expecting to wait years to see an impact.