The Cleveland Guardians have made a U-Turn during September.
Circumstances have led the team to change their direction for the Major League Baseball stretch run.
At the MLB August 1 trade deadline, the Minnesota Twins were leading the American League Central with a 54-53 record. The Guardians were right behind, at 53-54.
Last in home runs in all of MLB, and showing great difficulty scoring runs, the Guardians did not bolster their offense at the deadline.
The Guardians did make minor moves for the present, but acted with an eye to the future.
On July 26, the team traded shortstop Amed Rosario, who can become a free agent following the World Series, to the Los Angeles Dodgers for veteran right-handed pitcher Noah Syndergaard.
Perhaps the biggest move was made July 31. The Guardians traded their only veteran starter at the time, right-hander Aaron Civale, to the Tampa Bay Rays. They received prospect first baseman, Kyle Manzardo in return.
At the time of the trade, the left-handed hitting Manzardo, 23, was in rehabilitation for a shoulder injury.
He has now joined Cleveland’s Triple-A Columbus Clippers.
At the August 1 trade deadline, the Guardians sent first baseman Josh Bell to the Miami Marlins for prospect infielder Kahlil Watson, 20, and veteran infielder Jean Segura. The Guardians assumed Segura’s remaining salary, and immediately designated him for assignment.
Since his trade to Cleveland, the Guardians have designated Syndergaard for assignment.
In essence, they received little value in return for Rosario.
Bell has flourished and is hitting well in Miami.
Civale has pitched well for Tampa Bay.
Recovery Plan-Change of Direction:
Reports surfaced that Guardians players were deeply upset that the team traded Civale and did not improve the offense at the trade deadline.
To their credit, on August 2, Guardians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti, and General Manager Mike Chernoff flew to Texas, where the team was playing, to listen to the players and explain their decisions.
The front office then struck quickly to mend fences with moves to bolster the offense.
On August 4, the team purchased the contract of veteran outfielder/first baseman Kole Calhoun, 35, for cash from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The left-handed hitting Calhoun has given the offense a lift, and has been outstanding in both right field and at first base. He has had some huge hits for Cleveland.
Not finished with their offensive upgrades, right-handed hitting outfielder Ramon Laureano, 29, was selected off waivers from the Oakland Athletics August 7.
Laureano is a solid hitter with decent speed, and is an outstanding defensive outfielder.
The Boldest Moves Of All:
In an effort to reduce salary, and hopefully avoid the MLB Luxury Tax, the Los Angeles Angels stunned the baseball world by putting five players on waivers August 29.
Outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Randal Grichuk, as well as pitchers Lucas Giolito, Matt Moore, and Reynaldo Lopez were placed on waivers by the Angels.
Waivers were placed in time for the players to be eligible for the postseason with new teams.
In surprising developments, the Guardians were awarded pitchers Giolito, Moore, and Lopez. Each can become a free agent following this season.
One might say Cleveland hopes they are the three new Guardians Angels.
Time will tell.
To this old scout, the waiver claims by Cleveland were sound investments. They didn’t have to give up any players, and the three remaining salaries for the former Angels pitchers are rather minimal:
Lucas Giolito=$1.8 million remaining
Matt Moore=$1.3 million remaining
Reynaldo Lopez=$627,000 remaining
According to Fangraphs, the Guardians estimated payroll is now $98 million. The Twins are estimated at $158 million.
The Guardians claiming those three pitchers kept the pitchers away from division rival Minnesota, and any other contending teams.
The Cincinnati Reds claimed Renfroe. Grichuck went unclaimed, and remains with the Angels.
To this writer, the Guardians could have used either Renfroe, or Grichuck. Maybe both.
About The Three New Pitchers:
At the start of play September 5, the Guardians trail the Twins by 6 games for first place in the Central.
Giolito joined the starting rotation, while Moore and Lopez have bolstered the bullpen.
About Lucas Giolito: RHP-Age 29 (starter)
Giolito was beaten in his first Guardians start, September 4. He looked like he was pitching on an empty tank.
He yielded 7 hits and 9 runs in 3 innings. He walked 3 and struck out 3.
Giolito is far removed from his 2019 All Star year.
Giolito was a 1st round draft pick by the Washington Nationals in 2012.
Giolito is currently in his 8th big league season, having pitched for Washington, the Chicago White Sox, the Los Angeles Angels, and now Cleveland.
About Matt Moore: LHP-Age 34 (reliever)
Moore was an All Star in 2013.
Moore was a 9th round pick by Tampa Bay in 2007.
Moore is in his 13th big league season, having pitched for Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Texas, Detroit, Philadelphia, Texas again, Los Angeles Angels, and now Cleveland.
About Reynaldo Lopez-RHP-Age 29
In 2012, Lopez was signed by the Washington Nationals as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic for $17,000.
He is currently in his 8th big league season, having pitched for Washington, the Chicago White Sox, the Los Angeles Angels, and now Cleveland.
In a true MLB oddity, Giolito and Lopez were both signed by Washington, were traded together to the White Sox in 2016, were traded together to the Angels in 2023, and then traded together to the Guardians later in 2023.
Clearly, the Cleveland Guardians have now changed their plans for the remainder of the season.
However, the Twins crushed the Guardians in the first of three crucial September games at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The final score was 20-6.
It seems the Guardians are “all in” in their quest to wrestle the American League Central from Minnesota. However, the road became even tougher as the important three-game series with Minnesota started on a very sour note.