CLEVELAND, Ohio — There is always an uncertain period for teams right after the trade deadline.
The teams that imported talent have to wait to see how the new players fit. The teams that held four sales, have to hold their nose for the final two months of the season, while planning winter trips to a Caribbean island where they can sit on the beach, sip cold drinks and forget.
Then there’s the Cleveland Guardians. They played better than expected for the first four months of the season, put themselves in contention to win the AL Central, but at the deadline received no help from the front office.
They could have used some. A starting pitcher. A catcher who can hit. Another arm for the pen. An addition in any of those categories would have helped.
Instead the youngest team in the game will have to fend for itself, holding auditions for prospects in August, September and early October. If they can somehow make the postseason under those circumstances, they should take a bow.
Sooner or later one of the contenders in the AL Central — Minnesota, Cleveland and Chicago — is going to pull away from the dock. The Guardians’ passage on that ship would have been made a little easier with an addition or two.
No one who has watched the Guardians this season believes they’re ready to win a pennant or a World Series. They don’t score enough runs and the starting rotation is inconsistent.
But the Central is a ripe apple waiting to be picked. If not the division, then the wild card, which has been expanded from two to three teams in each league. The wild card is no longer a one and done affair. A wild card team is guaranteed a best of three series.
How could that experience not help a team like the Guards in 2023 and beyond? Even if they were swept in two.
The front office is invested in their 40-man roster and the prospects behind it. They didn’t want to part with those players until they get a better idea of what they can do.
“We’re trying to find out,” said manager Terry Francona. “The idea that you can call up seven players and all seven are going to be everyday major league players, that’s probably not realistic. But not finding out can be almost as much of a deterrent. We need to find out.”
That’s understandable. They have invested time, money and years of development in those players. Yet if players are expected to make adjustments, so are front offices. A chance for the postseason is guaranteed to no one. When it presents itself, even if it arrives ahead of schedule, it is best to take it seriously.
When Francona was a rookie with the Montreal Expos in 1981, he made it all the way to the NLCS against the Dodgers. He thought he’d be cashing postseason checks every year. In a 10-year playing career he never made it back.
It would be easier to accept the Guardians’ plan if the rotation was on better footing. But they have had trouble replacing injured Aaron Civale and handling the onslaught of doubleheaders Mother Nature and COVID has forced upon them.
The assembly line on Cleveland’s Pitching Factory has slowed down. In burning out a sprocket or two it has shown how unique the 2016 draft class of Civale, Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac was and how hard it is to duplicate.
Konnor Pilkington, Bryan Shaw, Kirk McCarty, Eli Morgan and Hunter Gaddis have made spots start this year with mixed results. Shaw and McCarty proved to be the best combination as they produced wins against Boston and Tampa Bay using the opener/bullpen game formula.
Civale made a rehab start at Class AAA Columbus on Friday and will face the Tigers on Wednesday. But even when healthy, he wasn’t pitching that well, which only underscores the decision not to add help at the deadline.
Names to remember:
- Tyler Naquin, former No. 1 pick of the Indians, homered twice Thursday in his first home game with the Mets after being acquired from the Reds.
- Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who used his no-trade clause to turn down a trade to Cleveland in 2016, officially retired Saturday and was added to Milwaukee’s Wall of Honor. Lucroy, in rejecting the trade, missed a chance to go to the World Series.
- Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and Lonnie Chisenhall, who went to the World Series with the Indians in 2016, are in Cleveland this weekend as part of the Guardians’ ambassador program.
- Tommy Hunter, who pitched for the Indians on 2016, has been placed on the injured list by the Mets. Hunter is 35.
- Tyler Duffey, who pitched 70 1/3 innings against Cleveland in eight seasons with the Twins, has been designated for assignment.
- Joe Smith, who did two tours with Cleveland, was DFA’d when the Guardians traded catcher Sandy Leon to the Twins at the deadline.
Guardians merchandise for sale: Here’s where you can order new Cleveland Guardians gear, including T-shirts, hats, jerseys, hoodies, and much more.
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