Last year, this didn’t seem possible.
Andrés Giménez was sitting in Triple-A, trying to prove to his new team that he belonged in the big leagues after a slow start prompted his demotion back down to the Minors. Now, he’s an All-Star who will start at second for the American League.
Any trade can be difficult for a player, but when you’re the center piece of a blockbuster deal that included a franchise player like Francisco Lindor (not to mention that you play the same position as he does)? That ups the ante quite a bit.
Giménez had a red-hot Spring Training with his new team last year, getting everyone’s hopes up that he was going to be the club’s next big star. Instead, he hit .180 with a .534 OPS in his first 29 games with Cleveland before he was shipped to Triple-A Columbus to get himself back on track. So the team and Cleveland fans would have to wait to see him become the player they had hoped for.
At that point, it was hard for even Giménez to envision bouncing back so quickly to have as dominant of a season as he’s having so far in 2022 -- let alone picturing himself being an All-Star just over a year later.
“I consider myself extremely hopeful about the power of working and my routines,” Giménez said, “but being down there in Triple A makes it a little more distant. Obviously, it’s nothing I was thinking [about]. I was just trying to become a better player.”
And that’s exactly what he did. In 52 games with Columbus, Giménez got himself back on track. He hit .287 with an .845 OPS, 13 doubles, one triple and 10 homers, forcing the big league squad to give him a call. His .246 average and .702 OPS after being promoted back to Cleveland was far from where Giménez wanted to be, but he was clearly trending in the right direction.
“I think last year everything was new to him,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “I think he felt like he had to get hits to stay in the lineup. That’s a hard way to play.
“And now he’s a year more familiar with us, with his game, with everything and he’s showing he’s a pretty good player. … I mean, just a really good player. He’s getting better. He’s still really young.”
Fast forward a few months and after a long winter of work, Giménez has helped José Ramírez carry the Guardians' offense. At the time he learned he was an All-Star last week, Giménez boasted a .300 average with an .836 OPS, 11 doubles, two triples, nine homers and 40 RBIs in 71 contests.
“He really deserves it,” fellow All-Star Emmanuel Clase said of his teammate, through team interpreter Agustin Rivero. “He made the adjustment needed to play. From what I've seen, he's a very positive guy. He's always up to play the game hard. He deserves it, he's a really good player. He's shown that, and I'm really happy for him.”
It was clear that everyone in the Guardians’ clubhouse was happy for Giménez. No one really knew if his efforts this season would be recognized. It was nearly a guarantee that Ramírez and closer Clase would be sent to Los Angeles for the All-Star festivities -- and they were -- but no one knew if Giménez would receive enough votes to join them. Francona didn’t make it easy to figure it out, either.
Francona got his team together last week in Kansas City and announced that Clase and Ramírez had made it and asked for a round of applause as if those were the only two All-Stars from Cleveland. Then, he made everyone pause to announce Giménez was also going to Los Angeles for a dramatic reveal.
“We introduced the guys and everybody gave them a little applause and they erupted for [Giménez],” Francona said. “For José and Clase, they were probably going to make it. But when [Giménez] made it, that place went crazy. That was really cool to see.”
A moment Giménez could’ve never pictured just one year ago is suddenly here. Now, he’s trying to convince himself this is now his reality, as he soaks in every second of this dream-like experience.
“It’s a form of validation for all the work that we’ve done,” Giménez said. “I think that’s going to be a pretty special moment for me and my family, for sure.