Cleveland Guardians Make Surprising Roster Moves Ahead of Rule 5 Draft
Quantrill and Kelly Designated for Assignment to Make Room for Espino and Smith
5:03 PM UTC
CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Guardians made some unexpected roster moves on Tuesday night in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. While it was no surprise that right-handed pitchers Daniel Espino and Cade Smith were protected, the team’s decision to designate right-handers Cal Quantrill and Michael Kelly for assignment raised eyebrows.
Quantrill, who has been a consistent starter for the Guardians over the past two seasons, was not expected to be on the chopping block. Acquired by Cleveland at the 2020 Trade Deadline, Quantrill showcased his versatility by transitioning between the rotation and the bullpen in ’20 and ’21. Despite facing injuries that affected his performance in ’22, Quantrill had a strong September this year.
However, the 28-year-old righty’s projected salary arbitration figure of around $6.5 million dollars was deemed too high by the Guardians. “Ultimately, we made the determination that with where we were in the offseason, we wouldn’t be able to commit the resources necessary to keep him through the arbitration process,” explained Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. “We were better off allocating these dollars in a different way.”
The Guardians rarely part with starting pitching without receiving something in return, making Quantrill’s designation for assignment even more surprising. Despite his strong performance in September, the team has been unable to find a suitable trade partner thus far. Antonetti remains hopeful that a trade can be made in the coming days.
If Quantrill does hit the free-agent market, the Guardians are open to bringing him back at a different price. However, if a reunion doesn’t occur, Quantrill will leave Cleveland with a 3.58 ERA, 320 strikeouts, and a 1.25 WHIP over 3 1/2 seasons. Antonetti acknowledged that the decision was difficult but necessary given the circumstances.
Meanwhile, the roster moves were made to create space for top prospect Daniel Espino and promising pitcher Cade Smith. Smith, who impressed with a 2.86 ERA in 17 games at Double-A Akron, continued to shine with a 4.65 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings at Triple-A Columbus.
“Cade’s continued progress has been exciting to see,” Antonetti remarked. “He’s a big, physical right-hander with a fastball that really plays. His secondary stuff, including his split and slider, made significant strides this year. We believe he can be a highly effective Major League reliever in the near future.”
Espino, on the other hand, remains a question mark due to durability concerns. The talented pitcher has not played in a Minor League game since April 2022 due to knee and shoulder issues. After undergoing right shoulder surgery in May (anterior capsule repair), Espino is currently six months into his recovery with no clear timeline for his return.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding Espino’s health, the Guardians deemed it necessary to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. With his exceptional fastball and above-average slider, the team hopes that Espino can overcome his setbacks and become a consistent contributor to the big league rotation in the coming years.