The countdown is on for MLB players and owners to agree to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before the current agreement runs up at midnight Eastern Standard Time December 1st. If no agreement is made between the owners and players, MLB will come to a work stoppage. The players will not be able to sign as free agents, and general managers and clubs will not be able to operate their business’ until a deal is reached.
History suggests a lockout is likely, considering how the two sides publicly fought over terms during the eventual 60-game shortened season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lasting impact of the 1994 strike that still lingers in the sport today.
Because of the likely work stoppage, a team like the Guardians, who have a ton of farm talent ready to be dealt for a major league-ready bat, must be proactive now to ensure their business is handled before the calendar turns to December.
For the Guardians, the Myles Straw trade at the deadline over the summer solidified center field for the next few seasons. Franmil Reyes will seemingly hold down the fort at DH. MVP candidate Jose Ramirez and Amed Rosario will most likely man down half of the infield in 2022.
One part of the right side of the infield is going to be presumably held by youngster Bobby Bradley at first base. Austin Hedges will handle catching duties, with Roberto Perez possibly being back on a lower salary. The only question for the infield going into 2022 is second base.
The current options at second include Andres Gimenez, Owen Miller, Ernie Clement and Gabrial Arias, who the team acquired in a 2020 deadline deal with the Padres that also netted them starting pitcher Cal Quantrill and outfielder/first baseman Josh Naylor.
Speaking of Naylor, he may be the biggest question mark for the team next year. If he can play after his gruesome leg injury he suffered back in May, he will more than likely man the right field position. However, where does that leave Bradley Zimmer? The Guardians have been so patient with him, but even with his surge in late 2021, he still only hit .226, and that’s not good enough to be an everyday player.
In the simplest terms, the Guardians are going to have to make a trade to bring in a power bat in the outfield and/or the infield. Gimenez, Miller, Clement, Zimmer, Oscar Mercado, Harold Ramirez and Yu Chang are all major league players under consideration for a trade, to go along with the numerous amount of talent in the minors. The question now is who should the team go try to acquire? Here are a few options:
Garrett Cooper - Miami Marlins
The right fielder has a $2.9 million salary next season before reaching arbitration in 2023. An affordable number for the Guardians, plus the fact he’s in the National League is a bonus. The 30-year-old is not known for his power as he only hit nine dingers for Miami in 2021, but his .284 batting average is more than appealing. Only Straw hit above .284 for the Guardians in 2021.
Matt Chapman and Matt Olson - Oakland Athletics
With the A’s presumably going on a fire sale, both of their power Matt’s could be available at the right price. Chapman has a $9.5 million salary for 2022 before he reaches arbitration. In 151 games last season, the third baseman hit 27 homers. If he does become a Guardian, the team could switch Ramirez from third to second.
Olson smashed 39 homers in 156 games in 2021. He has a $12 million salary in 2022, then hits arbitration in 2023. If Olson is acquired, the team could move Bradley to DH and move Reyes to RF, where he started his career in San Diego.
Ketel Marte - Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona tied with the Orioles for the most losses in baseball in 2021 with 110. They’re not going anywhere, so one of their best players may be available. Marte is just what the doctor ordered for the Guardianss. He can play both second base and center field, meaning he’s versatile. If the Guardians do make the deal, I suspect his position would be second base.
He also is a great hitter. In 90 games in 2021, he hit .318 with 14 homers. His contract is also franchise friendly. He’s owed $8 million in 2022, with club options at $10 million for 2023 and $12 million for 2024.