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Trustees Appoint Ramon Laureano For Share

The Guardians chose an outside player Ramon Laureano per share, tweets Zack Meisel of The Athletic. In his place, the team is developing external opportunities Jonathan Rodriguez for his MLB debut. Rodriguez is already on the 40-man roster, so the move also frees up some 40-man cap space in Cleveland. Guardians Prospective first reported that Rodriguez is getting a call from the big leagues.

Laureano, 29, came to the Guardians early last August after the A’s suspended him in hopes of getting him to pick up last season’s salary. The Rangers are committed, hoping Laureano will provide momentum down the stretch as they try to keep pace in the American League Central. The veteran did some offense, hitting .243/.342/.382 following the claim (106 wRC+), but the Guard ended up missing the postseason.

It was a surprise to see a budget-conscious team like Cleveland tender Laureano contract this winter. He ended up agreeing to a salary of $5.15MM, which equates to a large portion of the Guardians’ limited resources for the season. The team made that commitment despite Laureano turning in a lackluster .224/.304/.371 slash (91 wRC+) for the season overall — and a .218/.296/373 batting line in 2022-23 combined (93 wRC+) ) .

The decision didn’t go quite as well as Cleveland’s front office or the player himself had hoped. Laureano’s strikeout rate has risen to a career-worst 38.6% this season. He’s hitting just .143/.265/.229, albeit in a small sample of 83 plate appearances. Just four of his 10 hits went on extra bases (one homer, three doubles). The Rangers will have a week to try to sell Laureano, sideline him or release him.

Given the reported nature of Laureano’s struggles at the plate and his remarkable salary, they won’t find a trade market for his services. Laureano is very unlikely to get paid for that salary and therefore will likely resign and become a free agent. He has enough time of service to keep his full salary even if he chooses to decline the direct assignment.

Earlier in his career, Laureano was a quality regular in Oakland. From 2018-21, he turned in a sound .263 / .335 / .465 batting line (119 wRC+) with 49 homers and 34 steals over a lifetime of 1257 plate appearances. That came when we played solid defense in all three outfield positions. Laureano was a highly touted trade player and may have been part of a fire sale in Oakland, but an 80-game PED suspension during the 2021 season boosted his value. That proved costly, as his suspension played a role in pushing the A’s away from the lefty. Jesus Luzardo to find out Star Marte from the Marlins in a franchise deal while Oakland makes a postseason push.

As for the 24-year-old Rodriguez, he will take the field in Cleveland in his MLB debut after hitting .276/.389/.449 in 185 Triple-A plate appearances this season. The 2017 third-round pick entered the season ranked 23rd among Baseball America’s Guard players, 16th on and 30th on FanGraphs.

The 6’0″, 225-pound Rodriguez is praised for his raw power but also has some doubts about his penchant for chasing and hitting the air. He walked a whopping 15.7% of his plate appearances at Triple-A Columbus but also struck out at a 25.4% clip. That’s a low mark compared to Triple-A pitching but also a significant improvement over 2023’s 32.4% strikeout rate in 202 Triple-A plate appearances. Rodriguez is a switch hitter but now only hits to the right side of the plate. He hit 29 homers between Double-A and Triple-A last season, and has already hit seven long balls on the season.

Hitting may continue to be a part of his game, but perhaps not to the extreme that Laureano has experienced this season. Rodriguez will also add a legitimate thump to a Cleveland lineup that has been light on power in recent years but is turning the corner this season. Thanks in part to the big step forward from the rising star Josh Naylor, the guard ranks ninth in the majors with 51 big flies this season. Rodriguez gives them another power belt. He won’t be nearly as strong of a corner outfielder as Laureano, but licks him as a potential right-center fielder and Baseball America touts his pitching arm.

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