After Guardians' quiet Deadline, it's time to let the kids play

August 5th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell’s Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

No trades? No problem. (OK, maybe we won’t go that far.)   

The Guardians committed to learning more about their young roster on Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET when the Trade Deadline arrived without Cleveland completing a single Major League deal. The team was interested in attempting to make some moves, but opposing clubs were asking for more than the Guardians were willing to part with. In the end, it’s up to the kids to try to contend. 

Cleveland has been walking a tightrope. The club wants to remain in the playoff hunt while going through a transition period that easily could’ve been a rebuilding phase. Instead, the young guys that the Guardians have turned to so far this year have lived up to their hype.

Steven Kwan has been ridiculously impressive at the top of the batting order. Oscar Gonzalez hasn’t missed a beat since returning from the injured list with an abdominal strain. Andrés Giménez has been one of the most consistent bats on the roster. And now, all that’s left is seeing who else can work their way into the blueprints for the team’s future. Will Benson, Nolan Jones and Tyler Freeman are the next wave of prospects who can showcase their talents.

On Wednesday, Freeman became the most recent Guardian to make his Major League debut. If there weren’t any trades, there’s no point in wasting any time in evaluating the cluster of prospects on the 40-man roster (and even a handful who aren’t yet on the 40-man) who will eventually create a difficult roster crunch.

Because the Guardians didn’t make any trades -- and they have so many young players on their 40-man roster and will have to protect a handful more from the Rule 5 Draft this winter -- the team is going to have to utilize this time to determine who should stay and who can eventually go. With only 40 spots available, there are going to be way too many names to keep everyone. The only way to know who you’re comfortable inking into your future is seeing them firsthand.

That will mean there will be some defensive flexibility to get as many reps for these young players as possible. Benson will play center field, right field and some first base. Freeman will play second, shortstop and third base. Kwan has already moved all over the outfield. Jones committed to moving to the outfield from third base a couple of seasons ago for this very reason.   

The defensive alignment may look different than expected, but it’s finally time to let the kids play.