Lost in the Minutiae — On Josh Naylor And Strategic Sourcery
The Guardians willed their way to a stunning comeback on Monday night, fueled by a pivotal trade decision in 2020.
Photo Courtesy of The Akron Beacon Journal
You shut the game off when AJ Pollock put the White Sox up six. Or maybe you switched over to NBA playoff action after Amed Rosario dropped the most routine of routine fly balls in left field. Well, you missed out. Fortunately for you and plenty of others, the Cleveland baseball degenerates that kept viewing prevailed.
We aren’t here to talk about a six run overhaul in the 9th inning that induced a couple rounds of Rob Manfred’s Extra Inning Extra Baserunner Extravaganza. We aren’t even here to talk about Josh Naylor becoming the first MLB player ever to hit multiple 3-plus run homers in the 9th inning or later, no matter how much he wants the smoke. We don’t even have to mention that Andrés Giménez poured on multiple crucial late inning extra base hits, and we can skip past Owen Miller clawing his way aboard to set Naylor’s stage.
Photo Courtesy of Jordan Bastian
As always at Everyone Hates Cleveland, we are hung up on the minutiae. We are spinning the time wheel back a couple of earthly rotations to discuss player acquisition strategy. You know, when Chris Antonetti, Mike Chernoff, and the calculator crunchers in the Cleveland front office decided to trade Mike Clevinger to the San Diego Padres.
They didn’t land MacKenzie Gore. Or CJ Abrams. Or Ryan Weathers. Or even Luis Campusano. Instead, “Chernetti” and their faithful assembly of data divers pivoted hard and, (at least at the time), seemingly targeted quantity over quality.
A year prior, the Padres were solicited by the Cincinnati and Cleveland baseball clubs to help facilitate a deal. While Cleveland nabbed Franmil Reyes, Logan Allen, and Victor Nova, Cincinnati swooped in on Trevor Bauer and sent outfield prospect Taylor Trammell to San Diego. There is no doubt, though, that Cleveland inquired about a lot of Padres in those discussions and did their homework on even more names.
Occasionally, the homework pays off. Nah, it wasn’t an ask of Gore, Abrams, Weathers, or Campusano when it came time to sell high — and boy, did they — on Mike Clevinger. It was an easier ask for San Diego to stomach at the time, as they were still experiencing some 40-man roster clog and were in the market to compete in the now. San Diego likely felt like they didn’t have the time to wait on some middling prospects to boom or bust.
AJ Preller needed to capitalize on his current roster and the squad from Cleveland had a deal he couldn’t refuse, even considering the readily apparent risk attached to Mike Clevinger’s arm health. He didn’t even have to part with blue chips, and the Guardians would help him manage his 40-man cluster.
This is where the homework paid off. Chernoff and Antonetti went hunting. They decided to take the top-end exit velocity and contact acumen of Josh Naylor, despite him lacking a clear position. Go ahead and throw in the allegedly power deprived bat of Owen Miller. Don’t stop yourself from doubting his impenetrable ability to hit at every single minor league level. And hey, we aren’t very good at developing live arms — as you may recall from our previous Corey Kluber dealing — so you may be inclined to include that guy named Cal Quantrill you scooped in the first round of the draft a couple years back. We haven’t even gotten to our real prospect ask, Gabriel Arias, a guy that definitely won’t light Triple-A pitching on fire at 21 years old in the near future and grace every prospect Top 100 list worth its weight. Oh, and we still aren’t done, as there’s a lefty that we like as a throw-in and his name is Joey Cantillo. Even if he encounters some injury problems, there’s still a pretty solid command grade, and we typically like to kick those tires for awhile.
It’s okay, AJ. You don’t need to fork over Gore, Abrams, Weathers, or Campusano. Chernoff and Antonetti are happy to soften the blow and scoop up the scraps. The kicker: the scraps, they are quite…scrappy. Volume over universally renowned prospects, a risky gambit at the time, seems to be paying dividends in the early days of 2022 for the Cleveland Guardians.
The minutiae matters, and Josh Naylor still wants the smoke.