Quiet at the Deadline, Guardians focus on farm talent

Cleveland options Reyes amid struggles, aims to give prospects a chance in the bigs

August 3rd, 2022

CLEVELAND -- The Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the biggest transaction the Guardians made was to option Franmil Reyes to Triple-A Columbus.

Cleveland made one minor trade on Tuesday afternoon before its 6-3 loss to Arizona at Progressive Field, sending Minor League catcher Sandy León to Minnesota in exchange for Minor League righty Ian Hamilton, who was optioned to Triple-A. Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti met with media right after the 6 p.m. ET Trade Deadline and opened his press conference by explaining the club’s promise to try to find León a Major League opportunity, which was the motivation behind that trade.

Then, the biggest question of the day was asked: Were you disappointed that you weren’t able to make any other deals?

Antonetti’s answer was, “No.”

“The overwhelming feeling continues to be excitement about the group of players that we have here,” Antonetti said. “The way they play the game, the way they care for each other, we wanted to be really mindful not to disrupt that. We did explore a number of things over the last few days and few weeks, but in the end, there wasn't that one trade that made sense to change the group dynamic."

Cleveland is always walking a tight rope. The Guardians want to try to compete each year, but they never want to take away an opportunity to prepare for their future. In so many potential trades they could’ve made to better the roster, they would’ve had to part ways with some key pieces in their farm system (or on the big league roster) -- clearly, something they weren’t willing to do.

“I think the guys in there deserve the right to not lose a job, you know?” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “Like I said, if you can make something better, I get it, but muddying the waters -- and a lot of times, that's what happens -- that doesn't really help.”

What the Guardians have right now was enough to put them one game back in the AL Central at the time of the Deadline. Being in the thick of the race would lead many to assume that the next steps would be improving the roster for the homestretch of the season.

Sean Murphy was a name that popped up to help bring offensive production from the catching position -- something Cleveland lacks at the moment, despite Luke Maile’s 2-for-3 night on Tuesday. But Guardians No. 15 prospect Bo Naylor, per MLB Pipeline, may be a year away from possibly filling that void, and the team may not have wanted to put someone else in the way of his inevitable rise. Relief help was also a possible target, but nothing came to fruition, as the first-place Twins were actively making moves.

“Both with the White Sox and Twins, we know that they're really good teams, and they've made some moves that have the potential to help them,” Antonetti said. “We also are excited about the group of guys that we have and not only the group that's at the Major League level, but also players that we think can continue to help us for the next two months that are here and also at Triple-A as well."

Instead of looking externally, the Guardians attempted to improve their roster on Tuesday by sending a struggling Reyes down to Triple-A to get himself back on the right track.

Having Reyes out of the lineup gives Cleveland a little more freedom on its roster. A banged-up Josh Naylor can DH more frequently. Will Benson now has a chance to bring the pop that Reyes was lacking to the lineup by seeing time at first base with Naylor now at DH. This move is one that can ultimately help this lineup, but it’s certainly one no one would’ve predicted at the beginning of the season.

“We worked with Franmil a few weeks ago after he had the battle with the hamstring to try to work with him to get him back on track,” Antonetti said. “To Franmil's credit, he put in a lot of work. We feel like it can happen, it just hasn't. We're still committed to helping him. It's just at this point, he's going to have to work through it at Triple-A.”

Now, Benson is the next young player to get his shot at the big leagues, summing up the Guardians’ approach to the Trade Deadline: wanting to learn more about their prospects before making any decisions.

“I like the direction [we’re going in],” Francona said. “Are we the finished product? No, we know that. But in the meantime, we're competing like hell and trying to answer some questions.”