Inbox: Who will be key players for Cleveland next season?

September 20th, 2023

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.

Is the front office sold on Gabriel Arias as the shortstop for the 2024 campaign and beyond or is that position up for grabs? -- @AndyMees216
It definitely seems that the organization wants Arias to be the answer at shortstop for the foreseeable future. Is it locked up? Not necessarily.

Arias has gotten nearly every opportunity to earn that job since Amed Rosario was traded to the Dodgers in July. Every time Guardians manager Terry Francona is asked about Arias, he’ll rave about the shortstop’s glove. Having an elite defender at that position is important, but Cleveland needs to find answers offensively. The Guardians have been hopeful that with consistent at-bats, Arias would prove that he has enough in his bat to earn that everyday role. So far, he hasn’t quite done that.

That’s left the door open for guys, such as Tyler Freeman, Brayan Rocchio, or even younger guys, such as Cleveland's No. 14 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, José Tena or No. 6 prospect Juan Brito (eventually). But just because there’s still an opportunity for others to win the job doesn’t mean Arias won’t enter camp as the favorite, assuming no other candidates get added into the mix. It’s likely that the Guardians will look at Arias as the first option to be the Opening Day shortstop. But if he doesn’t look like he’s made strides offensively and someone else does (overwhelmingly so), then it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take a shot on a different player.

All of this to say: Nothing is set in stone, but Arias is likely the favorite.

Do you anticipate Lucas Giolito being in Cleveland next season? -- @SCowley75
Giolito will enter free agency at the end of the season. With Shane Bieber, Cal Quantrill, Tanner Bibee, Logan Allen, Gavin Williams, Xzavion Curry and eventually Joey Cantillo (No. 11) all in the mix, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to spend the money (even if it is a cheaper rate than expected because of his bumpy 2023) to bring in a starter if the young guys continue to pan out the way they did this year.

It seems Chase DeLauter is as advertised. Will we see him in Cleveland next season? -- @2ffbf961684f415
This will likely be left up to DeLauter (No. 4). He’s young, was drafted in 2022 and had just one Minor League season under his belt, which usually means a little more time in the Minors would be in a player’s future. However, if DeLauter can, one, stay healthy in 2024 and, two, dominate through the upper levels of the club's farm system like he did in High-A Lake County this year (hitting .366 with a .952 OPS in 42 games), he absolutely has a chance to reach the Majors by the end of ’24. Francona always says they want their players in Triple-A to knock the door down and force the team to call them up.

Which player who spent less than a month with the Guardians this year had the biggest impact in the locker room? -- @alexpkaufman
Kole Calhoun has been with the Guardians for a little more than a month, but we’ll still choose him. Cleveland needed a veteran, especially after experienced guys, such as Rosario, Josh Bell and Aaron Civale, were traded at the Deadline. Calhoun seamlessly joined this roster late in the season and established a much-needed veteran/leadership presence.

Will we see one of, if not both, George Valera or Kyle Manzardo in Cleveland for the final stretch? -- @ClaseInSession
Guardians fans are ready to see Valera and Manzardo, but it’s most likely that neither will come up before the end of the season. Valera had an inconsistent year that was derailed by injuries. He finally seems to have settled in offensively over the last few weeks, but Cleveland seems set on letting him play every day in the Minors until the season ends.

For Manzardo, the Guardians want him to get more at-bats at Triple-A since he missed more than a month this summer with a shoulder injury. Expect him to finish the year in the Minors before coming into Spring Training next season ready to compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster.