Cleveland Guardians set 2024 Opening Day roster, make some unexpected choices


GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Barring a last-minute acquisition, the Cleveland Guardians’ Opening Day roster is set. A spring full of injuries and illnesses and a surprising dismissal of Myles Straw led to some unexpected choices.

Outfielders Will Brennan and Estevan Florial learned Saturday morning they will join the team in Oakland next week. The same goes for relievers Tim Herrin and Hunter Gaddis. Straw and Rule 5 Draft pick Deyvison De Los Santos did not make the team.

Here’s the tentative plan for Opening Day …

Pitchers: Shane Bieber, Tanner Bibee, Logan Allen, Triston McKenzie, Carlos Carrasco, Tyler Beede, Emmanuel Clase, Scott Barlow, Nick Sandlin, Eli Morgan, Hunter Gaddis, Tim Herrin and then either Cade Smith or an external acquisition.

Position players: Bo Naylor, Austin Hedges, David Fry, José Ramírez, Andrés Giménez, Josh Naylor, Gabriel Arias, Brayan Rocchio, Tyler Freeman, Steven Kwan, Will Brennan, Estevan Florial, Ramón Laureano

“It’s crazy to see how it got to this point,” said manager Stephen Vogt.

• De Los Santos sat at his locker, hunched forward, his head down, his hood on and his phone in his hand on Saturday morning. Finally, José Ramírez sat in an adjacent locker stall to offer De Los Santos support. Life as a Rule 5 Draft pick is strange, especially during spring training and especially for a 20-year-old embarking on an audition with an unfamiliar team. Ramírez mentored him for the past two months as the Guardians mulled whether his power potential was worth an inflexible roster spot and whether that would even be beneficial to his development. It’s a peculiar situation.

“José pushed him,” Vogt said. “Credit to him for working with a young player and really taking him under his wing.”

They knew the obstacles when they selected him in December, but at the time, the Guardians were desperately searching for (inexpensive) ways to add power to the organization. This lottery ticket cost them only $100,000, and they’ll recoup half of that once he officially clears waivers and the Diamondbacks accept him back into their organization. It’s rare for the two sides in this situation to work out a trade that would remove De Los Santos’ roster restrictions, as the Guardians would have no leverage in those talks.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

The strange, stressful, caught-in-between spring training of a Rule 5 pick

• Straw will likely clear waivers and then presumably land in Columbus, a wild turn of events for someone still owed about $20 million over the next three years. The only ways for the Guardians to escape that contract:

1. A team claims him on the waiver wire, which seems highly unlikely.

2. Straw elects free agency once he clears waivers, which seems highly unlikely. By choosing that route, Straw would forfeit the remainder of his salary and settle for whatever another team would offer him, which wouldn’t be much.

This decision clears another 40-man roster spot. The club will add Trevor Stephan and perhaps James Karinchak to the 60-day injured list, which would clear another spot or two for Carrasco and Beede. One of those two will be the fifth starter to open the season (until Gavin Williams returns from injury), with the other pitching in long relief.

Ben Lively and Xzavion Curry are likely to start on the injured list as well as they continue to ramp back up following absences stemming from the virus that swept through the clubhouse.

• The only spot left unsettled is the final job in the bullpen. That will belong to Smith, unless the Guardians grab a reliever from another team in the coming days, which is always a possibility as clubs make their final cuts. Either way, Smith figures to contribute to the bullpen throughout the year. He’s had a great spring, as have Herrin and Gaddis. Until Sam Hentges returns from the injured list, Herrin will be the lone lefty in the pen.

“The messaging to Tim,” Vogt said, “has been, ‘Your stuff plays. When you’re ahead in the count … you’re tough to square up. Pitch behind in the count and you have to challenge somebody, you’re gonna get hurt. Tim has not only attacked the strike zone and showed his best stuff, he’s pitching with confidence.”

• How Vogt divvies up playing time in the outfield will be interesting. Can some combination of Brennan, Florial, Laureano and Freeman prove fruitful? Cleveland’s outfield produced an 84 wRC+ last season, meaning they created offense at a rate 16 percent below league average, which was the third-worst mark in the league. The group’s 18 home runs ranked last, 28 behind second-worst Washington and one-fifth of the total registered by the Braves’ outfield.

Kwan, obviously, will occupy left field. Freeman seems poised to patrol center. Laureano is expected to receive regular at-bats, either in right field or at DH. Brennan and Florial are both left-handed hitters, though with starkly contrasting profiles.

Florial has power and speed, but plenty of swing and miss. He’s had a rough spring, but he’s out of minor-league options. Brennan makes a ton of contact, but was plagued last season by chasing pitches out of the zone too often, which led to an abundance of weak contact.

• Beede was twice drafted in the first round. He was a top-100 prospect and a Futures Game participant. He threw a fastball, curveball and changeup. Now 30, having spent a year pitching in Japan, he’s almost unrecognizable on the mound. He’s leaning on a splitter, sweeper and sinker and said he has a better handle on how to attack hitters than he did as a struggling young pitcher with the Giants.

He said the east-west approach with his new arsenal has helped him record more swing-and-miss than his old, north-south approach with fastballs up and secondary pitches lower in the zone.

“As I went overseas,” he said, “it was a self-discovery process. Who am I as a pitcher? Who do I want to be? And then owning that.”

• This pitching staff will feature a Bieber, a Bibee and a Beede, which rivals the Yan (Gomes)/Yandy (Díaz)/Yonder (Alonso) trio on the 2018 roster. We can’t discuss the potential for name confusion without mentioning the O.T./O.P. fiasco from 2018, when Cleveland’s coaches summoned the wrong reliever from the bullpen because the nicknames for Dan Otero (O.T.) and Oliver Pérez (O.P.) sounded similar.

And, of course, there was the July 1999 snafu when Manny Ramirez manned right field instead of Alex Ramirez. The lineup card had Manny at DH and Alex in right field. Manager Mike Hargrove blamed the ordeal on miscommunication between the coaches. Manny had to become the right fielder and Alex had to be replaced by the pitcher, leading to a pair of Charles Nagy plate appearances against David Wells in a game with American League rules.

(Photo of Hunter Gaddis: David Berding / Getty Images)





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