The MLB lockout came to an end on Thursday evening as the owners and players were finally able to reach an agreement after a 99 day lockout. Cleveland now gets ready to start their first season under the rebranded Guardians team name and logo.
It's going to be a fast and furious rush for MLB teams to finalize their rosters with free agent signings and trades with less than a month before opening day. All has been quiet thus far on the Guardians front. The team has some glaring needs offensively that need to be filled in this short window before opening day on April 7th in Kansas City.
The team needs to add bats to the lineup after struggling offensively in 2021. Let's take a look at the three most likely positions the Guardians could add some pop to the lineup.
Right now the only guarantee in the Guardians outfield is centerfielder Myles Straw who was acquired last season from Houston. In 60 games with Cleveland Straw hit .285 and stole 13 bases in 14 attempts while playing a stellar defensive centerfield. Both corner spots are still up in the air. Bradley Zimmer will compete for one of the spots after a late power surge last season. It's put up or shut up time for Zimmer who's time is running out. Another player you can put into the "put up or shut up time" category is Oscar Mercado. After a strong rookie campaign in 2019, it's been a struggle for his the last two seasons. Josh Naylor returns after suffering a horrific leg fracture in Minnesota last season. He could also end up seeing some time at first base. Youngsters Steven Kwan and Richie Palacios, who were added to the 40-man roster, could throw their names into the conversation with strong spring performances. The Guardians need to add at least one or two veterans to the group either via free agency or trade. They possess a plethora of talented middle infield prospects to use a trade bait.
Cleveland lost former starting catcher Roberto Perez to the Pirates in free agency. Austin Hedges returns and right now is the starter by default. Hedges is one of the top defensive catchers in the league but also one of the weakest at the plate. In a perfect world he is your backup in 2022. Sandy Leon was brought back on a minor league contract. He spent 2020 with Cleveland as a backup to Perez. Other than that the cupboard is bare for major league ready players at the position. Prospect Bryan Lavastida showed a lot of promise last season but is not quite ready for major league time. Cleveland need and most certainly will look to add a starting caliber catcher before the season gets underway.
Bobby Bradley currently stands to be the starter at first base after hitting 16 homeruns in 245 at bats last season. Power has never been a question for Bradley. Making enough consistent contact to be an everyday player is a big question. He batted only .208 last season striking out 99 times in those 245 at bats. As mentioned above Josh Naylor could also see time at first base in 2022. Unless they can acquire their big bat at first base (i.e. Matt Olson) then Bradley will most likely open up at the position.
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