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OPINION: Guardians ‘punted’ season away… or did they?

All across social media recently, I’ve seen the term “punted” being thrown around.

Users are choosing that title to caption how the Cleveland Guardians acted during the trade deadline portion of this MLB season.

Will Burge of Barstool Cleveland took to “X,” saying, “Me watching the Guardians Twitter burn after they get no-no’d on trade deadline day where they punted on the season.” (Houston Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez no-hit the Guardians on August 1.)

@BrandonDillman6 expressed, “The Guardians punted on the season with this move.” (This comes in response to Guardians pitcher Aaron Civale being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for minor league prospect Kyle Manzardo.)

And @cleforlife2369 stressed that the “Guardians have officially punted on the season.”

Now, I’m going to be honest, I have never heard of the term “punting” when describing a team that looks like they have given up on the year.

And although it is a clever description, I wouldn’t send out the special teams unit just yet when it comes to the 2023 Cleveland Guardians.

Let’s take a look at the timeline of moves the Guardians have made.

The first big news to break concerning Cleveland happened on July 26, when they traded their shortstop and regular 2-hole hitter Amed Rosario to the Los Angeles Dodgers for right-hander Noah Syndergaard and cash considerations.

According to the numbers, Rosario’s time in Cleveland was pretty good.

He recorded a .278 batting average with 168 runs batted in and clubbed 25 homers.

He’ll go to a Dodger team that is looking for stability at the shortstop position.

They may have that in a solid ballplayer like Rosario.

Who the Guardians got in return was a man who was an All-Star, came in 8th in the Cy Young Award voting for best pitcher in the National League, and 19th in the NL’s MVP race in Syndergaard.

The only problem is that his peak season occurred in 2016.

Ever since then, the 30-year-old hurler has been trying to find his Cy Young self with four different teams.

Heck, he even said in a May press conference that he “would give my hypothetical firstborn to be the old-me again.”

Luckily for Syndergaard and his non-existent child, he will now go to a staff that is led by pitching coach Carl Willis. He has helped five aces win the Cy Young award, the most coveted award a pitcher can receive in his career. (C.C. Sabathia in 2007, Cliff Lee in 2008, Felix Hernandez in 2010, Rick Porcello in 2016, and Shane Bieber in 2020.)

If anyone can get a pitcher’s career back on track, and even to an elite level, it’s Willis.

On July 31, the Guardians then dealt right-handed pitcher Aaron Civale to the Tampa Bay Rays for one of their best young prospects, first baseman Kyle Manzardo.

Now Civale has been with the team since 2019, but has really been a regular on the mound since 2021.

In 54 starts from the past three seasons, he has had a career ERA of 3.7 with 255 strikeouts.

Even though Cleveland fans seemed to really enjoy the right-hander, those stats don’t make you a true household name within the Guardians’ starters, so it never really seemed like he would go his entire career wearing the red “C.”

In three seasons of minor league ball, Manzardo, who was named the Rays’ 4th best prospect, has clubbed a .291 average, drove in 127 runs and socked 35 home runs. According to the MLB, Manzardo is baseball’s 62nd best prospect, and to start off his career with the Guardians organization, he found himself on the injured list and just recently started a rehab assignment. The 23-year-old went 0-4 with a walk and an RBI.

With it being so early in his career and when he gets called up to a team where he can learn from a fellow first baseman like Josh Naylor, his numbers and his presence on a day-to-day basis will only go up for the Guardians.

With this move being made, however, Guardians fans speculated the departure of the team’s other first baseman at the time.

Those speculations turned out to be true.

Prized off-season pickup Josh Bell was traded the next day to the Miami Marlins in return for two infielders. Big league veteran Jean Segura and former first-rounder Khalil Watson.

Bell was the belle of the ball for Cleveland this winter as they were about to add a 2022 Silver Slugger recipient to their lineup.

But the 2019 All-Star put up a batting average of .233 with 48 RBIs and 11 homers.

Not the kind of numbers you want to see from an anticipated offseason pickup like Bell.

Making the trip to northeast Ohio is Khalil Watson as he is a .234 hitter lifetime in the minors, but what jumps off the page to me is his speed.

He has 30 stolen bases in the last two seasons, and if you call him up and bring him to a team that already has the ability to run the bases, you could be looking at a guy that could be a small difference in wins and losses a couple of years down the road.

Does this sudden loss of big-name guys hurt?

A little bit.

But, this is the same organization that is led by Terry Francona.

Tito, while he has had some questionable managerial decisions in 2023, still can get the job done.

Francona has managed the Guardians since 2013, recording the most wins in franchise history (845) and is a 2-time World Series winner (Boston Red Sox), a 3-time Manager of the Year and knows how to get the absolute best out of his players day in and day out.

The bottom line is that the Cleveland Guardians were a team that was one win away from a trip to the ALCS a season ago.

They did that with the youngest roster and the 4th lowest payroll in baseball.

Do I expect them to be playing for the pennant this October?


But, with them being six games back of the division at the time of this article being written, don’t you dare count out the Guardiac Kids.

Now or for the next 2-3 years.

Matt Kiraly is a TV2 sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].

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