The Guardians didn’t add 11 prospects like they did last year, but the team had a handful of moves to get its roster in order:
Martinez and Cantillo were expected to be added to the 40-man roster. The two were the only current members of the club’s Top 30 prospects list (according to MLB Pipeline) who were eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason. Martinez (No. 11) hit a combined .278 with 23 doubles, four triples, 13 homers and 44 RBIs in 101 games split between High-A Lake County and Double-A Akron. Cantillo (No. 23) was limited to 60 2/3 innings this year due to a left shoulder strain, but demonstrated dominance prior to his injury, posting a 1.93 ERA with 87 strikeouts and 28 walks in 14 outings (13 starts) for Akron.
Although Herrin doesn’t rank in the Guardians’ Top 30 prospects, his stuff has caught the attention of big league executives. The 26-year-old reliever posted impressive numbers in Lake County and Akron over the last two years. In 2021, he owned a 2.57 ERA with 85 strikeouts and 32 walks in 73 2/3 innings with High-A before pitching to a 2.01 ERA in 12 appearances with Double-A to start the ’22 season. But with his promotion to Triple-A Columbus in May came a little more adversity for Herrin, as he put up a 4.98 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 17 walks in 47 innings.
"Tim put together a very good year," Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. "He's got great arm strength, his cutter has really developed into a true weapon that he can use against lefties and righties and we think he can provide a depth option for us going into next year."
Trading Jones may have been the biggest surprise of Tuesday's moves, but it was becoming difficult to envision what his future could look like with Cleveland. The club's former top prospect was a third baseman who needed to find a new defensive home after José Ramírez signed his contract extension. Jones shifted to the outfield and had some time in the Majors this year, hitting .244 with a .681 OPS in 28 games. But because of the emergence of Steven Kwan and Oscar Gonzalez mixed with the options in Will Brennan and, eventually, George Valera, Jones didn't quite fit in the Guardians' outfield picture, either.
"For us, it was about the opportunity to acquire Juan," Antonetti said. "Obviously, we had to part with Nolan to be able to acquire him. We continue to believe that Nolan is going to go on and be a productive Major League player, however, as we started to look at our roster composition for next year and where there may be opportunities for Nolan, his path was a little bit less clear at this point."
Now, the club has a switch-hitting middle infielder on the 40-man roster in Brito. The 21-year-old hit .286 with 29 doubles, six triples, 11 homers and 72 RBIs in 107 games with Single-A Fresno in Colorado's system this year. He was ranked the Rockies' No. 30 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
Vargas never made his MLB debut with the Guardians after injuries set him back over the last two years. But Cleveland got another righty starting option in the deal. Carver posted a 5.06 ERA in 24 starts between Arizona’s High-A and Double-A affiliates this season. In 15 starts in High-A, he owned a 3.10 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings, but he struggled after his promotion to Double-A (9.50 ERA in nine starts).
Neither McCarty nor Gose were surprising choices for clearing space on the 40-man roster. McCarty was designated for assignment twice this season and even though he stepped up in key moments for the club down the stretch, he was a depth piece that was easier to move than some of the other arms on Cleveland’s roster. Gose will need to rehab his way back from Tommy John surgery in 2023, making it difficult to predict what the 32-year-old reliever’s future could be.