What latest moves mean for Guardians' roster

March 21st, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Five cuts remain.

Ahead of their 4-2 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday, the Guardians optioned infielder to Triple-A Columbus and reassigned first baseman/outfielder and righty to Minor League camp. Between injuries and cuts, just 31 players are left actively competing in camp, while two of the four main position battles are still in full force.

1. Backup catcher
and are still in big league camp, but it seems all but certain that has won the job.

2. Utility man
Freeman's option cleared up this decision. Pries and Oviedo were expected to be moved prior to Opening Day. Pries has yet to reach Triple-A Columbus and the club is looking for Oviedo to be more consistent in his command before he’d make the next step. But Freeman entered camp hoping to be on Cleveland’s roster on March 30 in Seattle.

“That was probably the tougher one just because he’s fighting for a spot,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “And by his own admission, he said, ‘I didn’t hit the ball real well this spring.’ That doesn’t necessarily -- again, you don’t choose your team because of that.”

Freeman was battling for the club’s utility spot. It didn’t make sense for the Guardians to carry both infielders on the 26-man roster, considering they both bring similar skill sets to the table. Arias has swung the bat well all spring, has had experience in the outfield in the past and proved last year he can handle a transition to a position he’s never played before (first base) at the most critical point in the season. It started to become clear that Arias was a lock to win the battle.

“But we just assured [Freeman], ‘This doesn’t define who you are,’” Francona said. “He’s a really good kid. He’s got leadership skills, he’ll move around the diamond. My guess is you’ll see Tyler at some point here.”

3. Bench spots
The Guardians had two options: Fill their bench with two infielders and one outfielder, or two outfielders and one infielder. Now, we know the latter is the answer, but we’re still waiting to see which outfielders will join , and .

is a lock to make this roster. There’s no doubt he’s shown enough this spring to break camp with the Guardians. That leaves Richie Palacios and fighting for the last bench spot.

Quinn is an ideal candidate to provide this team with extra depth. He can play all three outfield spots, his sprint speed ranks in the 97th percentile and his arm strength is in the 98th percentile. He can be a solid defensive replacement and an ideal pinch-runner, assuming he can stay healthy since injuries have plagued him in the past. The problem is that the 29-year-old is not on the 40-man roster (which is currently full). The Guardians still need to clear one spot for a backup catcher. They may need another spot for the bullpen. If Quinn also needs to be added to the roster, it could be difficult to make it work.

Palacios, who is probably the better offensive option, showed last year that he can deliver in a pinch-hit scenario and has played at least a handful of games at all three outfield spots in the Minors. But Palacios is only 25 years old with 54 big league games under his belt. He could still benefit from time in the Minors to continue his development rather than getting sparse playing time in the Majors. His sprint speed ranks in the 63rd percentile, which wouldn’t make him as ideal of a pinch-runner as Quinn. But Palacios is already on the 40-man roster, making it easy to carry him on the active roster.

4. Bullpen
There are two openings to fill.

Right-hander was making a compelling case for the Opening Day roster before an MRI revealed that he has a sprained UCL in his throwing arm and will now need to be shut down. That leaves as the lone non-roster invitee still fighting for one of the open spots. He joins , and in the running.

Herrin is the only lefty option the Guardians have remaining to add to their bullpen, with still recovering from left shoulder inflammation. Gaddis has pitched well this spring and, like Curry, could be used in a multi-inning relief role. Kelly has had a strong showing thus far, giving up one run in 5 2/3 innings.