The Guardians had few expectations heading into the season.
“Rebuilding” and “rebranding” were two words commonly thrown around the club.
One of the best preseason takes expected the Tigers and Royals to provide fireworks than the new-look Cleveland Guardians:
“The Guardians are entering the first season of their rebranding without very high expectations. The AL Central is almost definitely going to be a two-team race between the White Sox and Twins, and both the Royals and Tigers also have more excitement surrounding them heading into 2022.”
Needless to say, that take has not aged well.
No, if the season ended today, the Guardians would be playing postseason baseball as a wildcard.
If the season ended next week, the Guardians very well could be the AL Central’s representative in the World Series hunt.
No, the Guardians aren’t sellers at the trade deadline; they’re very much buyers.
But every buyer is at least partially a seller, forced to send either prospects or players in exchange for talent.
Here are two potential Guardians players on the trade block heading into the heat of summer:
1. Franmil Reyes
You had to know his name would appear on the list.
Around 42% of Reyes’ 133 at-bats ended in a strikeout; he had over twice as many Ks (56) as hits (26).
Don't look now, but the @CleGuardians have won 6 straight series. pic.twitter.com/ZmhjlSQvsM
— MLB (@MLB) June 19, 2022
He’s been worse than streaky this season, with his best stretch a six-game run in early May when he notched 12 hits and five RBIs.
Other than that nice run, it’s been a whole lot of nothing from Reyes.
Perhaps even more dooming for Reyes is how the Guardians have played without him.
May 24, Reyes’ last game with Cleveland before going down with an injury, the team was a weak 18-21, falling further and further adrift of any playoff hope.
Since then, the club’s fortunes have changed drastically.
Between May 25 and June 21, the club went 16-7, elevating Cleveland to a 34-28 record.
The Guardians just feel smoother, looser now, and it’s not hard to see why.
Without Reyes occupying the designated hitter spot, more positions are available for guys to play their natural positions.
Josh Naylor‘s been able to slot into DH, Owen Miller to first, opening up spots for Andrés Giménez to shine in the infield and Oscar Gonzalez, Myles Straw, and Steven Kwan to shine in the outfield.
In addition, Reyes’ style of play is slightly out of sync with the rest of the offense.
Reyes hits for power, while the Guardians’ offensive philosophy is predicated on hitting for contact.
At base, Cleveland needs a designated hitter that can, well, hit.
So far this season, Reyes has not delivered.
2. Austin Hedges
No knock against Hedges defensively.
He’s been a reliable backstop for three seasons in Cleveland.
But his numbers are either hovering around or slipping below the league average, including his caught stealing percentage.
And his offense is non-existent.
In 132 at-bats, Hedges has just 14 RBIs and 22 hits against 35 strikeouts, good for a paltry .167 average.
Most consider prospect Bryan Lavastida the long-term future behind the plate, but he’s probably still a year away.
Your Cleveland Guardians:
-youngest team in baseball
-won 15 of last 19
-won 6 straight series
-came to within 1 game of 1st in division
-own a wild card spot
-have the best 2B in WAR in the AL
-have the MVP favorite at 3B
-have 2 ROY candidates#ForTheLand
— C0RY (@c0ry024) June 19, 2022
Could the Guardians parlay whatever Hedges has left in the tank for a stop-gap option?
At the very least, the Guardians should consider someone who can provide a little more oomph on offense without sacrificing too much defensively.
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