CLEVELAND — Roughly two hours before Major League Baseball's trading deadline, Guardians manager Terry Francona was asked if he thought his team would be making any moves.
"I don't think so," Francona told reporters, before adding, "you probably never really know until the end."
Turns out, he was kind of right on both counts.
Cleveland did indeed send backup catcher Sandy León to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for relief pitcher Ian Hamilton, but it was hardly the big acquisition some felt the organization could pull off. The Guards entered Tuesday's action trailing (ironically) the Twins by only a game in the American League Central Division, but instead chose to let 6 p.m. come and go without at least a semi-major deal for the first time in years.
The strategy will no doubt leave some fans puzzled, especially with this being one of the most active trade deadlines in recent memory. Yet despite a past penchant for brining in reinforcements and a bevy of young prospects to dangle out for other teams, both Francona and president Chris Antonetti seem happy with the current direction of the club.
"Often times, we came back to really believing in the individuals we have in the clubhouse and the contributions they have made," Antonetti said of his conversations with Tito and the front office in the days leading up to the deadline. "As importantly [is] the way this group has come together and the team dynamic that we have — the way they play the game, the way they care for each other — and we wanted to be really mindful to [not] disrupt that."
The Guardians currently sport baseball's youngest roster with an average of just 26.1 years old, but sit at 53-49 and firmly in the thick of the pennant race as the calendar turns to August. Antonetti said this time around there "wasn't that right trade that made sense," and that kind of went both ways, as veterans like Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac were retained despite showing up in the rumor mill.
But other direct competitors were more aggressive, with the Twins in particular adding starter Tyler Mahle along with relievers Jorge López and Michael Fulmer. Antonetti was unfazed, specifically bringing up Cleveland's rich farm system that sports eight prospects currently ranked in MLB.com's top 100, several of whom are on the cusp of being promoted.
"They made some moves that have the potential to help them, but we also are excited about the group of guys that we have," Antonetti reiterated, "not only the group that's at the Major League level, but players that we think could continue to help for the next two months that are here but also at Triple-A."
One of those players is back in the lineup tonight, with young outfielder Óscar González being activated from the injured list. To make room on the roster, Franmil Reyes was optioned down to Columbus, the latest blow in what has been a frustrating season for the slugger who hit 30 home runs only a year ago.
León had been in the minors after getting 15 at-bats with the Guards this summer, and Antonetti confirmed he had promised the catcher to send him to a big league team if an opportunity was available. The right-hander Hamilton, 27, has a 4.91 ERA across 15 career MLB appearances and will start in Triple-A.