Several months back, Myles Straw embodied everything positive about the Guardians‘ start to the season.
Across 21 games in March and April, Straw batted a solid .291, good enough for 23 hits.
And his defense was extraordinary; he was consistently rated the best defensive centerfielder by FanGraphs.
Flash forward to May and June, and Straw looks unrecognizable.
His defense is still stellar — there are no problems in that department.
But Straw’s offensive numbers are in a tailspin: in May, he batted a ghastly .178; so far in June, that number has fallen to .143.
And while a three-game sweep to the Red Sox ended Cleveland’s strong run this month, the club still has playoff aspirations.
This leaves Cleveland asking what to do with its struggling centerfielder.
Here are three options:
Option A: Ride it Out
We start out with the most likely option: letting Straw play through the dry spell.
May and June have been bad, but at least Straw can point to March and April as evidence that his offensive game isn’t non-existent.
What if this stretch is just an offensive drought?
Is was told when the Guardians Came home Myles Straw would heat up
I was lied to
— Billy Beebe (@ThirdBeebe) June 26, 2022
The worst thing Cleveland could do is send a temporarily struggling player to another club and watch him find his grove once again.
And as long as Manager Terry Francona has any say, the club will prioritize great defense despite sub-par offense.
Plus, we’ve seen Francona give significant leeway to players in an offensive slump.
Just this season, he kept Franmil Reyes in the lineup despite a terrible strikeout rate and batting average.
That, plus the fact that Reyes was a non-factor on defense since he hit DH.
Further, it’s not like Straw’s poor batting has let the team down significantly; in June, Straw’s worst month, the team as a whole had its best run of the season.
As long as the rest of the bats don’t go silent, perhaps the team can afford to miss out on Straw’s offense.
Option B: Explore the Trade Market
With the playoffs clearly in Cleveland’s sites, the Guardians should be trade deadline buyers.
But how late in October can Cleveland play with a centerfielder who is a liability at the dish.
Add in the fact that catcher Austin Hedges is also a poor hitter (and, unlike Straw, there is little evidence to suggest he’ll magically turn a corner) and opposing pitchers have two easy outs in the lineup.
Perhaps Cleveland looks at the trade market to bring in a little extra firepower.
But the club can’t bring someone in without sending someone else out, too.
Would a rebuilding club be interested in Straw’s excellent defense?
Probably, as long as a prospect is also attached.
Kansas City’s Andrew Benintendi and Washington’s Josh Bell both figure to be available at the trade deadline.
And both could provide just the amount of offense this team is missing, with both capable of hitting in DH unless Reyes’ woes end.
Benintendi could even slot in at center field if needed, though his primary position is over in left.
Option C: Will Brennan
Perhaps a solution isn’t external in the form of a trade partner, but rather internal.
Enter Will Brennan.
Rated as Cleveland’s no. 29 prospect by MLB.com, Brennan’s 2022 season has been a strong one.
#Guardians 24yr old OF prospect Will Brennan is a machine! Brennan w/ 4 more RBI's today for Columbus. He finished the game going (3-6 R 2(2B) 4RBI) at the plate. Brennan now has 65 RBI's on the season in just 63 games w/ 22 doubles & a .328 AVG.@Silly_Willy18 #ForTheLand pic.twitter.com/Hlz5OU0mwj
— Guardians Prospective (@CleGuardPro) June 26, 2022
So far, he’s slashed .328/.402/.498 across time with both AA Akron and AAA Columbus.
He’s not a power hitter, but rather makes excellent contact with the ball, a style perfectly in sync with what Francona is looking for in his pro side.
He’s probably still a year away, but if Straw continues to slide, look for Francona to give Brennan a short call up to see how he gels.
Fans should be thrilled at this idea — at least one writer compared Brennan’s profile to rookie sensation Steven Kwan.
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