3 Dream Targets For Trade Deadline

July 20, 2023

Tony Camino

Dream list of potential Guardians moves heading into the trade deadline.

Currently sitting near the .500 mark and right in the thick of an uninspiring AL Central Division race, the Guardians have some major needs for their roster if they want to win the division and make a run for the World Series.

Guardians’ Wish List

  • Power Bat (preferably right-handed)
  • Bullpen help
  • Starting pitcher to eat innings

If history tells us anything, the Guardians aren’t likely to make a massive splash that involves sending out a haul of top 30 prospects. During their deep runs in the late 2010s, the biggest all-in trades were acquiring Andrew Miller in 2016 and Brad Hand in 2018. Granted, those teams were in a much better position at this time of the season than the current team is, but the divisional race is wide open, and anything can happen in the postseason

Dream Target #1: Josh Hader

Despite boasting the second-best bullpen ERA this season, everything seems to be falling apart as of late for the Guardians’ bullpen. Over the last 14 days, the script has flipped completely, and they are now posting the sixth-worst bullpen ERA, including losing three of the last six games due to bullpen implosions.

Unfortunately, the underlying metrics suggested that this collapse was coming, as only two Guardians’ relievers have expected ERAs under four (Emmanuel Clase and Nick Sandlin). The bullpen has been giving up hard contact all year and putting guys on base, and it’s starting to catch up to them.

Josh Hader was traded from Milwaukee to San Diego last deadline and could be on the move again with the Padres’ chances to win this year. Hader has continued to dominate, posting an expected ERA of 1.99 and allowing the least amount of hard contact of any pitcher in baseball. He’s struggled with walks this year, but his dominance in limiting hard contact has compensated for it.

With the bullpen in its current condition, it cannot be expected to compete for much of anything given its recent performances. Relying solely on Sam Hentges and Tim Herrin to handle left-handed matchups is not going to work. Hader would be rental and likely gone after the season, but he is still one of the best relievers in baseball, and relief help is essential if the Guardians have hopes to win anything this year.

Guardians Get: LHP Josh Hader

Padres Get: RHP Xzavion Curry, RHP James Karinchak, LHP Joey Cantillo (CLE #14)

Dream Target #2: Paul Goldschmidt

When it comes to right-handed power, there hasn’t been much better in the last decade than Paul Goldschmidt. In 2022, Goldschmidt posted a career-best 177 OPS+, and he has continued to excel this year with 130 OPS+ and 16 home runs. Goldschmidt has also won multiple Gold Gloves, making him a dream addition to this lineup.

The Cleveland lineup, as a whole, has its ups and downs, mainly due to the reliance on stringing hits together. The team is dead last in home runs by double digits, and they really need some power in their lineup to provide a boost when the bats are cold. Goldschmidt’s presence would allow him to start every day at first base, while Josh Naylor could take on the designated hitter role, potentially leading to Josh Bell being included in the package or traded away.

Acquiring Goldschmidt, who has a year and a half of control left, is likely to be a pricey endeavor for the Guardians, as the Cardinals still have Nolan Arenado on their payroll and are likely to try and re-tool during the offseason for a run in 2024. However, returning Josh Bell in the deal would provide the Cardinals with an average hitter with the upside to hold down first base and provide some production. Alongside Bell, offering players like Gabriel Arias, a young bat with potential despite his struggles, and Gavin Williams, who has shown flashes of greatness, and other top 30 prospects, could entice the Cardinals to part with Goldschmidt and build for the future.

While losing top prospects is a tough pill to swallow for the Guardians organization, the addition of Goldschmidt is a game-changer that could completely alter the team’s outlook for the next two postseason runs. 

Guardians Get: 1B Paul Goldschmidt

Cardinals Get: 1B/DH Josh Bell, IF Gabriel Arias, RHP Gavin Williams (CLE #1), INF Brayan Rocchio (CLE #5), LHP Joey Cantillo (CLE #14), RHP Tanner Burns (CLE #17), 

Dream Target #3: Shohei Ohtani

Nobody is generating more trade talks than the best player in the world, and the Guardians would be crazy not to at least inquire about what it would take to get Shohei Ohtani. With Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie injured and their return this year uncertain, Ohtani could come in and solve many issues with just one player. Not only is Ohtani leading the majors in OPS+ and home runs, showcasing exceptional contact skills, but he’s also posting a sub-four expected ERA and an impressive 1.12 WHIP.

Ohtani is truly one-of-a-kind, and having him in the middle of the lineup and on the mound could make an October run very interesting for Cleveland. Young arms like Gavin Williams, Tanner Bibee, and Logan Allen may need to be limited, and they aren’t the guys you want to rely on heavily. Adding Ohtani would relieve the pressure on them and provide an elite arm, making the potential playoff series rotation of Ohtani-Bieber-McKenzie extremely intriguing.

While Ohtani might be the best player the league has ever seen, the fact that he would be a rental, along with the massive contract he is due, makes his value slightly less than expected. It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect teams, including the Guardians, to throw multiple top-100 prospects in a deal for half a season of Ohtani, especially when it doesn’t guarantee them as surefire American League favorites. Unless a miracle happens and the Dolans agree to extend Ohtani before the trade, a more sensible approach would be to build a package around young major-league talent, allowing the Angels to capitalize on Mike Trout‘s prime years before they pass.

Guardians Get: SP/DH Shohei Ohtani

Angles Get:  IF Gabriel Arias, IF Tyler Freeman, OF Oscar Gonzales, OF Chase DeLauter (CLE #6), IF Angel Martinez (CLE #7), IF Jhonkensy Noel (CLE #15), RHP Jack Leftwich (CLE #27)

We Can Dream Can’t We?

In all likelihood, none of the deals will come to fruition for numerous reasons. The biggest reason is that I do not expect the front office to make an all-in type of deal with this team, particularly considering their history of not following through on significant deals for non-relief pitchers. Jose Ramirez and Josh Naylor are performing admirably as middle-of-the-order hitters, so perhaps their performance will be enough to convince the front office to go for it, especially with the division within reach.

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