CLEVELAND -- It was clear all season long that the Guardians had two Gold Glove-worthy defenders on their roster, so it’s no surprise that they’re receiving the hardware to prove it.
The Guardians had three American League Gold Glove finalists this year, and a pair of them came out victorious, as announced on ESPN on Sunday evening. For the second straight year, Andrés Giménez took the honors at second base and Steven Kwan was awarded in left field. José Ramírez did not claim his first Gold Glove but was a finalist at third base alongside winner Matt Chapman (Toronto) and Alex Bregman (Houston).
Kwan and Giménez had very similar seasons in 2023. They both saw a dip in offensive production from the year before. Neither of them allowed that drop to impact their exceptional defensive abilities. And because of that defense, there are questions about whether each of them should be moved to more critical positions.
In Kwan’s first season in 2022, he was as outstanding in the field as he was a leadoff hitter. He was Cleveland’s second rookie to win a Gold Glove, joining Sandy Alomar Jr., who won the award in 1990. Now, he’s won the award in each of his first two big league seasons.
“My dad told me defense never slumps,” Kwan said at the end of the season. “Maybe you’re having a bad day at the plate, [but] you can always show up in the field and make an impact.”
Kwan experienced his fair share of bad days at the plate this season compared to his rookie year. As the year went on, he started to look more like himself in the box and saw an uptick in his numbers. But regardless of what Kwan was doing with his bat, he was the most reliable outfielder the team had every single night.
“We have one of the best left fielders in baseball,” Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said.
As great as Kwan was in 2022, Giménez was even better. He wasn’t a rookie last season, but it was his first full year in the Majors. He was the hottest bat in the lineup and the flashiest glove in the field. Giménez became the third Cleveland player to win a Gold Glove at second base, joining César Hernández and Roberto Alomar. Now, his name joins that list again.
The 25-year-old infielder led all second basemen in Defensive Runs Saved by a landslide. His 23 Defensive Runs Saved was the second most among all position players, trailing only Fernando Tatis Jr.’s 29. His +18 Outs Above Average ranked the third most of all position players.
“I think he’s getting better, which is hard to believe,” former Guardians manager Terry Francona said of Giménez in September. “It’s special to watch him play second base.”
Kwan and Giménez have proven they’re the best options for the Guardians at their respective positions. Does that mean they should remain there for the foreseeable future? Or should they move into more pivotal spots?
Myles Straw has been a solid defender for the Guardians in center field since he was acquired at the 2021 Trade Deadline from Houston. However, his offense has been subpar the last two seasons, and the team may need to try someone else in center in order to see more production offensively. The possibility of moving Kwan, a natural center fielder, from left field is certainly on the table.
Giménez is in the same boat. The Guardians need to figure out who can man shortstop with the position open after Amed Rosario was traded to the Dodgers in July. Gabriel Arias is the favorite to win the job, but his bat wasn’t as consistent as the team would have hoped. Moving Giménez to shortstop is also on the table, but it still leaves an opening at second base for the current middle-infield options who haven’t been as successful offensively in the Majors.
Regardless of whether these moves are made, there’s no doubt Kwan and Giménez’s excellent defense has forced Cleveland’s front office to at least take some positional swaps into consideration.
“Both [Giménez] and Steven are two of the best defenders at their position, which is something that we don’t take for granted,” Antonetti said. “So, moving them off those positions or contemplating that, we recognize, could come with a cost. Those are discussions we’ll have as we continue to move forward through the winter.”