Trading for Juan Soto would appear to be a slam-dunk decision–in fantasy baseball, not currently for the Cleveland Guardians.
The Guards have the goods to acquire the new Home-Run Derby champ, but think of the top handful of prospects you’d like to see in a Guardians uniform one day. George Valera, Gavin Williams, Daniel Espino, Brayan Rocchio, Tyler Freeman, they’d be gone.
It’s not that the Guardians shouldn’t try and make a deal to improve the roster, but it needs to be a for a player who will be here longer than 2 1/2 years. That’s how long Soto has left on his deal, and with reports that he’s already turned down a $440 million extension with the Nationals, you can correctly assume he’ll flee Cleveland, assuming the Dolans don’t find oil underneath the Bob Feller statue.
Also consider the Guardians have been a pleasant surprise through the first half. They’re two games over .500 at the break, with a mark of 46-44. This is a team the experts predicted would win 77 games. Cleveland is in the thick of the playoff hunt in a very forgiving AL Central. If Terry Francona’s group were in the West or East. Forget about it–they’d need the Hubble Telescope to get a glimpse of first place.
Perhaps they keep pace with the Twins. Maybe they don’t. That’s the dice you roll with the youngest club in baseball.
Cleveland Guardians are risky bet for the rest of 2022
If this young team struggles through the Dog Days of Summer, it’ll be waste of Soto, so you’d go into 2023 with high expectations of the Guardians with two year of control–and you’ll have given up a ton of assets–assets, which could have been used to improve the current roster for a longer period of time.
The Guardians window to contend is just starting to open. Think of 2022 as 2015. Next season, is when they truly should be able to challenge the Twins and White Sox.
And they will improve through trades. There’s a logjam of middle infielders on the club. It’s no secret and the Guards can’t stash them all on the 40-man roster. There’s not enough space. The Guardians have been slick in their most recent deals as of right now, it looks like they’ve come out ahead on deals for Francisco Lindor and Mike Clevinger.
Acquiring Soto would attract much needed eyebrows to Progressive Field, but finding a deal that benefits the Guards longer term should be the priority.
Of course, this is all under the caveat that Soto won’t sign long-term. If new minority owner David Blitzer dives into his vault of gold coins a la Scrooge McDuck screaming “Get him,” then of course, trade whatever it takes.
When Soto is dealt, it won’t be to Cleveland. Despite not winning a title, Cleveland has maintained a winning, competitive organization, with five trips to the postseason since 2013. They’ve finished under .500 just once (last season) under Francona. To continue that stretch, they’ve got to be smart and we’ll see how smart they are when they finally start pulling the trigger on deals involving their crowded pipeline.