This team is a Deadline sleeper

July 27th, 2022

On June 19, the Cleveland Guardians beat the Minnesota Twins with a little help from the San Diego Padres. After getting eight sharp innings from starter Cal Quantrill, Cleveland first baseman Josh Naylor called game with a three-run walk-off home run that gave the Guardians a 7-6 win.

Two summers prior, Naylor and Quantrill were part of a six-player haul Cleveland got from the Padres for Mike Clevinger and Greg Allen. In the nearly two years since the deal, the Guardians have gotten more than 13 WAR from the players they received while the Padres have gotten only 1.3 WAR in return.

In the deal, Cleveland's front office sold high on a homegrown player to acquire a bounty of talent that set the team up for success in the future -- a theme common amongst deals the Guardians make. Cleveland could once again be a power player at the Trade Deadline this year, as the Guardians have the prospect capital to compete in any trade and enough question marks on their roster to be a theoretical fit for almost every available player.

So, with Cleveland potentially holding the keys to this year's trade frenzy, here's a look at their best deals from the past six Trade Deadlines.

Note: All statistics are through Tuesday.

Received LHP Konnor Pilkington for 2B César Hernández

This trade is the type of transaction Cleveland has become known for over the years. After recognizing they weren’t going to make the playoffs last year, the Guardians sold high on Hernández, shipping him to the second base-needy White Sox. In return, they got Pilkington, who was at Double-A at the time of the trade.

Pilkington has been so-so in his first Major League action thus far, making nine starts (12 appearances) with a 4.17 ERA while shuttling between Cleveland and Triple-A. Even if Pilkington projects as a back-end starter, this deal is still a win for Cleveland, as Hernandez batted .232 with the White Sox before the team declined his club option in the offseason. He’s now with Washington.

Acquired C Austin Hedges, INF Owen Miller, 1B/OF Josh Naylor, RHP Cal Quantrill, SS Gabriel Arias and LHP Joey Cantillo from the Padres for OF Greg Allen, RHP Mike Clevinger and RHP Matt Waldron

The deal of the 2020 Deadline continues to come up aces for Cleveland. Of the players Cleveland got back in return, Miller, Naylor, Quantrill and Hedges have already established themselves as bonafide Major League starters.

After sustaining a horrifying injury in 2021, Naylor’s come back strong this year (.280, 13 HR, 52 RBIs) and is the Guardians’ heartbeat, Miller (.247, 39 RBIs, 21 2B) has cooled off since a hot start but has power to the gaps and can play all over the diamond, Quantrill (7-5, 3.75 ERA) has been one of Cleveland’s most consistent starters over the past two years and Hedges (.177, six home runs) is a solid if unspectacular defensive-minded catcher.

That said, two other pieces of the trade are waiting in the wings, as Arias (the team's No. 4 prospect) could become the Guardians' everyday shortstop as early as next year while Cantillo (No. 30 prospect) could end up in Cleveland at some point next year.

At the time of the deal, Clevinger was fresh off an electric 2019 season (13-4, 2.71 ERA, 126 innings) and had begun to establish himself as one of the best arms in the American League. That production hasn’t followed him to San Diego, where he’s only made 14 starts due to injuries. San Diego traded Allen to the Yankees in January 2021, and the Pirates claimed him off waivers in November.

Acquired OF/DH Franmil Reyes (Padres), LHP Logan Allen (Padres) and OF Yasiel Puig (Reds), INF Victor Nova (Padres) and LHP Scott Moss (Reds) for RHP Trevor Bauer

Even if Reyes is the only member of this three-team trade who is still with Cleveland, it still worked out in the team’s favor.

While Reyes is struggling this year, batting .215 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs in a year that’s been marked by up-and-down play and injuries, he still boasts some of the best raw power in baseball, and is only a year removed from mashing 30 home runs.

Puig made an immediate impact as Cleveland pushed for a playoff spot in 2019 (he batted .297 with a 109 OPS+ in 49 games) before the team let him go in the offseason. Allen could never put it all together in Cleveland (3-7, 5.45 ERA) and is currently in Triple-A with Baltimore.

Acquired RHP Adam Cimber and LHP Brad Hand from the Padres for C Francisco Mejía

Cleveland capitalized on Mejía's stock to shore up its bullpen with Hand (who formed a ninth-inning platoon with incumbent closer Cody Allen) and Cimber (who provided a different look out of the bullpen with his unique pitching motion.)

Hand ended up being an All-Star for Cleveland in 2019 and led the league in saves in 2020, while Cimber was average (4.30 ERA in 88 innings). Hand is now with Philadelphia, while Cimber is in Toronto.

At the time of the trade, Mejía was Cleveland’s No. 1 prospect, was two years removed from his 50-game hitting streak in the Minor Leagues and looked to be the catcher of the future. San Diego traded him to Tampa Bay in December 2020 as part of the Blake Snell deal, where he’s batted .259 over 143 career games.

Acquired OF Jay Bruce from the Mets for RHP Ryan Ryder

Despite only being a rental, Bruce still found a way to impact Cleveland’s stretch run in 2017. In 43 games with Cleveland (he was acquired during the August waiver Trade Deadline period), Bruce hit .248 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs . He recorded his marquee moment on Sept. 14, 2017, when he hit a walk-off double to extend Cleveland’s record-setting winning steak to 22 games.

Acquired LHP Andrew Miller from the Yankees for OF Jackson Frazier, LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Ben Heller and RHP J.P. Feyereisen

Miller’s three-year run in the Progressive Field bullpen has become a thing of legend in Northeast Ohio. In July 2016, Cleveland traded its top prospect at the time (Frazier), a top-100 prospect (Sheffield) and two other depth pieces for Miller in a move that blew their contention window wide open.

After the trade, Miller was nearly unhittable in the regular season (1.55 ERA) before putting together a legendary postseason where he tallied a 1.66 ERA in 19 1/3 innings while winning ALCS MVP. Miller finished his Cleveland tenure with a 2.22 ERA in 125 2/3 innings.

Frazier has been hampered by injuries and is currently playing in Triple-A with the Cubs, while Sheffield was traded to Seattle prior to the 2019 season and has been unspectacular. Ironically, the best prospect included in this trade ended up being Feyereisen, who has yet to allow an earned run run in 24 1/3 innings this year with Tampa Bay.