The trade deadline not only provided the chance for the Guardians to add major talent.
It was also an opportunity to solve Cleveland’s logjam in right field.
For those keeping score at home, that’s six dancers and only one chair left.
What is Cleveland’s plan?
Option A: Open Season
Let’s be clear: the Guardians have the other two outfield spots nailed down.
Left fielder Steven Kwan‘s coming-out party this season has been spectacular: he’s batting .298 as a leadoff hitter with a 119 wRC, a stat that measures runs created, with external factors like ballpark taken into account.
And though center fielder Myles Straw had a June to forget about (.149/.231/.181), he steered the ship back to passable in July (.278/.323/.356).
A year ago, an OF of Steven Kwan, Will Benson and Nolan Jones in Cleveland might have been a very surprising thing to see and think about.
— Justin L. (@JL_Baseball) August 4, 2022
The bigger reason Straw won’t see a bump from center is because of a nice fat five-year contract this summer.
Rotating the outfielders is out, which brings us to the first option: open competition for the right field spot.
The Guardians can take, in reality, half the number of right fielders they currently boast.
This winter and next spring, make those vying for a spot compete.
Strangely, most of the players who have taken the right field this season have played either average or above-average.
But that does little to solve Cleveland’s logjam this season.
Option B: Rotation
The second option might be keeping all six and platooning or rotating them.
Chris Davies of Covering The Corner made the case:
“Right field has and will continue to be the most rotated position for Cleveland. Oscar Gonzalez has the most games started there this season, but even he’s just logged 30 starts in right. Gonzalez is healthy again and inline for time there, but he has Nolan Jones and Benson to contend with for a spot in the lineup. Benson seems like the likeliest to make way for a fifth starter when the Guardians require one again, but if he keeps playing well at Columbus he will require big league playing time somewhere. And it’s not like removing Benson from the equation makes it easier.”
Cleveland’s right fielders have all played well but under limited circumstances.
In an ideal world, Gonzalez probably lights it up for the rest of the season, leaving Jones, Benson, and the minor leaguers as potential trade bait.
Nolan Jones’ first 50 big league plate appearances:
— Gage (@GageEHC) July 27, 2022
But with six options, the odds one of them is a truly excellent player is high.
However, not giving them the chance to develop and grow at the position could hamper growth, as well.
Look for the Guardians to try and package some of these young players (or even Gonzalez) in a deal this winter.
Perhaps Cleveland wants to bolster its starting rotation with another quality arm.
Making Valera or Gonzalez the centerpiece of a trade might get the ball rolling.
Cleveland could have dipped into its stock to make a move at the deadline.
But in reality, the club is in no worse a position now than they would be by doing the same come winter.