Guardians might target catcher, reliever as trade deadline nears | Jeff Schudel

Jul. 16—Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti is in a difficult, but not unexpected, position with the Aug. 2 trade deadline a little more than two weeks away.

The Guardians were 44-44 after shutting out the Detroit Tigers, 4-0, on July 14. Except for a stretch from May 30 to June 22 when they improved from 19-24 to 36-28, they have not played well enough consistently enough to show they can play with the best teams in the American League. Conversely, they are not as bad as their record of 8-16 since the hot streak reflects.

Six teams from each league will qualify for the postseason. The expanded format means some mediocre teams will be playing playoff baseball in October. Seven of the 15 teams in the American League are within three games of one of three wild-card spots.

The Baltimore Orioles, 52-110 in 2021, are 45-44 and only 1 1/2 games out of the wild-card race. The Guardians are two games out of the last wild-card spot.

Antonetti and General Manager Mike Chernoff do not make knee-jerk reactions to streaks like the ones noted above. It would be no surprise if they do nothing at the trade deadline. It would a surprise if they are sellers because the team is heading in the right direction, even if Antonetti on Aug. 1 concludes the G-men are still a year away. Usually sellers are starting over, and that certainly is not what the Guardians are doing.

Likewise, it would be a shocker if they pulled off a blockbuster deal like they did at the trade deadline in 2020. Two years ago, in the season shortened to 60 games because of COVID-19, they shipped pitcher Mike Clevinger and outfielder Greg Allen to the Padres on Aug. 31 for first baseman/outfielder Josh Naylor, catcher Austin Hedges, pitcher Cal Quantrill, infielder Owen Miller, shortstop Gabriel Arias and pitcher Joey Cantillo.

Miller, Arias and Cantillo were in the Padres' farm system when the trade was made. Cantillo is pitching at Double-A Akron currently. Arias has played with the Guardians this season, but he has spent most of the season with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers.

The Guardians don't need to get younger. If they make any sort of trade to get stronger for a playoff push, they might target Oakland A's catcher Sean Murphy.

The Guardians could use designated hitter Franmil Reyes or shortstop Amed Rosario in a trade package for Murphy. They also have promising middle infielders in their farm system, such as Brayan Rocchio, who could be expendable.

Murphy is a player multiple teams will have interest in acquiring. He is durable — 66 games as the A's catcher and 13 as their DH this season. He is hitting .237. Guardians primary catcher Austin Hedges is hitting .164 with five home runs and 15 RBI. Murphy has nine home runs and 36 RBI.

"He's a tremendous defender who grades well in all the most important categories, including framing, throwing, and staff-handling," R.J. Anderson of CBS wrote in suggesting the A's might trade Murphy. "Him offering any kind of offensive value, let alone good offensive value for a backstop, makes him a big-time asset."

Murphy, 27, is under club control through 2025.

Anderson listed the Rays, Astros and Giants as possible suitors for Murphy, but there is no reason the Guardians shouldn't explore a trade. He would be an upgrade at catcher next season and beyond even if he doesn't make them a playoff team this season.

The Guardians could also look for bullpen help and a corner outfielder at the deadline.

Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds is a player many teams will target. He has 15 home runs and 32 RBI. The Guardians outfielders combined have eight home runs, and four of those belong to Oscar Mercado, who was designated for assignment twice and is currently playing with the Clippers.

Daniel Bard, a 37-year-old reliever, is likely to be traded by the Rockies. For what it's worth, Bard pitched for the Red Sox from 2009-2011 when Guardians manager Terry Francona was the Boston manager.

Joe Barlow, 26, has 13 saves with the Texas Rangers this season. He could take some of the workload from Guardians closer Emanuel Clase. David Bednar of the Pirates has 16 saves.

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