The Cleveland Guardians roster is taking shape, bringing both clarity and confusion

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Steven Vogt shook Austin Hedges' hand Friday morning and told the veteran catcher that he's officially earned a spot on the Opening Day roster.

There was little doubt after the Cleveland Guardians handed Hedges a $4 million contract for 2024, but Hedges told his manager he's “never too old to hear that,” even as he begins his 10th season in the majors.

The Guardians settled much of their roster puzzle on Friday. Brian Rocchio, Gabriel Arias, Tyler Freeman and David Frye all made the club, as did pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Tyler Beede. But there are still some unanswered questions, and the numbers will continue to be shuffled into the season as the team sorts out who belongs and who doesn't. The list became clearer and more confusing.

“It's messy,” team president Chris Antonetti said.

• Myles Straw's roster spot is in jeopardy. A source said the team placed him on outright waivers The athleteWhich means any team could claim him – and his onerous contract. That would be a surprise, given his salary and offensive shortcomings. The goal is to remove him from the 40-man roster. The Guardians could have just optioned him up to Triple A, but by placing him on waivers, another team might have noticed the muscle he added over the winter and the powerful bat he took this spring and would take his contract out of Cleveland's hands. The most likely scenario is for Straw to clear waivers and roam center field at Huntington Park in Columbus unless he elects free agency. But if he does, he loses his contract.

It was two years ago that The Guardian began talks about a contract extension with Straw. They owe him $4.9 million this year, $6.4 million next year, $7.4 million in 2026, then either $8 million for 2027 or a $1.75 million buyout.

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• Freeman's smooth transition into midfield helped influence Straw's decision. Freeman arrives at camp determined to find a way to earn more playing time after sitting on the bench for most of 2023. He's not the only one capable of handling center field. The jury is still out on what Estevan Florial and Will Brennan can bring to the plate. Ramon Laureano will get to bat (and possibly become a trade candidate in July).

• So, this leaves the team with two roster spots in Straw, Florial, Brennan and Rule 5 pick Davison De Los Santos. That's the problem with De Los Santos' plan: the company line is that April's conditions could get the better of the young hitter, but that's exactly the environment in which the 20-year-old will be evaluated. Remember, de los Santos' decision has repercussions throughout 162 games, not just the beginning of the season. They cannot choose it for minors which hampers their flexibility. He needs to either stay or be sent back to the Diamondbacks. With those hurdles in place, short of a change of mind, he will likely return to the Arizona system.

• No, Chase DeLaughter is not a candidate for the roster, despite his hot spring. He never was, and Vogt said DeLaughter played his last Cactus League game this spring. The club's top prospect was not in big league camp, just deep camp. You hear the story all the time: The Guardians hid Pitcher It is the best development decision. Well, that's what happened with Delauter. His spring showcase was held in front of coaches who could now vouch for him if the field wasn't crowded in, say, June or July.

“The future for him is very bright,” Vogt said.

• It's easy to see how highly Vogt values ​​Fry's skill set since the manager played a similar role as a reserve player who could jump around the diamond. Fry can limit Hedges' exposure to the batter's box and start at designated hitter or first base when it makes sense.

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• Rocchio is expected to get the bulk of the short cast initially, moving Arias into a utility role. The organization loved Rocío's offseason, where he won a winter league title with Tiburones de la Guaira in Venezuela. Neither shortstop has made a final appearance in contention, but Vogt noted that Arias is still working on some swing adjustments, especially as he tries to solve the puzzle of left-handed pitching.

Giving Rocchio fair looks and not giving up on Arias seems to make it difficult for Freeman to get cast in a short period. Oh, and Angel Martinez has had an interesting spring and could challenge for a chance this summer. And don't forget Jose Tena too. Because this club does not have enough midfielders, don't be surprised if Daniel Schneemann breaks through the midfield at some point. Vogt and Antonetti raved about its power, reliability and versatility.

• Since the club sent Kyle Manzardo to Triple A, if De Los Santos is not on the roster, the club can rotate players across the DH spot. Manzardo has done nothing this spring to suggest he's not ready to face the big leagues, especially for a lineup that could use a jolt of pop and patience.

• Okay, moving on to a staff that is in disarray due to injuries and illness. Trevor Stefan and James Karinchak will likely be on the 60-day injured list. Sam Hentges and Gavin Williams will start on the 15-day injured list. They could be joined by Xzavion Curry and Ben Lively, who have been on their way back from the virus that has plagued the club for much of the spring.

At the beginning of camp, it seemed as if the rotation was set and there was only one position open. Now, there is an open rotation point and up to four points available. Either Carrasco or Bede will be the fifth player, and the other will land in the pen. Hunter Gaddis, Tim Herrin and Cade Smith all look like safe bets to make the team as well, barring an outside roster addition or a quick recovery by Curry or Lively.

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The Guardians reassigned Anthony Goss to minor league camp on Friday. It will be in the mix at some point, which is a remarkable accomplishment considering what it holds. It's one thing to go from the field to the mound, but just as he earned his big-league status as a reliever, his elbow started howling. He has not appeared in a match since July 2, 2022.

• Fifteen years ago, Cleveland traded Cliff Lee to Philadelphia in a deal designed around Jason Knapp, a highly regarded and powerful pitcher… who never advanced beyond ball one. However, there is still another part of the trade that pays some indirect profits. Carrasco made his debut with the Indians on September 1, 2009. Rocio was 8 years old.

Antonetti marveled that some of the areas Carrasco needed to work on early in his tenure — such as harnessing emotions and building relationships with teammates — are now his strengths.

“It was great, especially seeing the smile on his face, at 37 years old and 13 years in the major leagues, to tell him that he came home to Cleveland and that he made the opening roster, it's great,” Vogt said. private conversation. He was ecstatic.

Antonetti: “The look on his face, you'd think it was the first Opening Day roster he'd ever made.”

(Photo by Carlos Carrasco: Karim El Gazzar/The Inquirer/USA Today Network)

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