The Cleveland Guardians continue to surprise the MLB world. They did not have high expectations heading into 2022 but reached the playoffs. In 2023, Cleveland stumbled to a mediocre campaign. In 2024, despite failing to make many notable additions and losing ace Shane Bieber to Tommy John surgery early in the season, the Guardians currently hold a 50-26 record which is good for an eight-game lead in the American League Central.

Additionally, Cleveland has often relied upon reliable starting pitching to carry the team in recent years. Yet, in 2024 it is the Guardians offense that has performed well while the starting rotation has endured its ups and downs. It should be noted that Emmanuel Clase and the Guardians bullpen have been impressive.

So adding another starter or two seems to be the logical course of action for Cleveland as they prepare to buy ahead of the MLB trade deadline. However, it may not be all that simple.

According to an article in The Athletic by Ken Rosenthal, Patrick Mooney and Katie Woo, the Guardians are looking to develop “creative options in their own system.” Of course, Cleveland also wants to keep the current pitchers in their starting rotation healthy.

It should be noted that the Guardians may still be open to adding outside options. There are multiple reasons for Cleveland's desire to lean on pitchers already in the organization, though. Many potential trade candidates from other teams recently suffered injuries, while the Guardians are expecting to have pitchers return from the injured list soon.

Guardians 2024 starting rotation

Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Triston McKenzie (24) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field.
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The Guardians rotation has not been great in 2024. Of course, losing a former Cy Young winner did not help matters.

Meanwhile, Triston McKenzie has pitched to a lackluster 4.66 ERA. McKenzie features All-Star potential but he has not pitched well this season. Carlos Carrasco and Logan Allen have also struggled.

Tanner Bibee, who finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2023, has performed well. Ben Lively has also found success. However, the Guardians clearly need to add pitching depth.

Another element to consider is bullpen usage. The Guardians feature a top-tier bullpen, but Cleveland has relied heavily upon relievers to begin the season. We are still in June, so one has to wonder if the team's bullpen will be able to hold up for an entire campaign.

Trading for an innings-eater to add to the rotation would make sense. Having someone who can give your team 6-7 innings every fifth day can work wonders for a bullpen.

Again, the Guardians are looking for internal options at the moment. Still, adding from the outside remains a viable course of action.

Cleveland trade candidates

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) delivers a pitch to the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Globe Life Field.
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Tyler Anderson of the Los Angeles Angels is someone to keep an eye on. The veteran left-handed hurler has pitched well while the Angels continue to underperform. Anderson could help Cleveland's rotation without question.

Jack Flaherty of the Detroit Tigers, Cal Quantrill (former Guardians pitcher) of the Colorado Rockies, and Zach Eflin of the Tampa Bay Rays are other candidates. One other pitcher who could be moved is Max Scherzer of the Texas Rangers.

Scherzer looked sharp in his recent return from injury and is on an expiring contract. The veteran comes with injury risk, but could make a pivotal difference for the Guardians if the Rangers decide to trade him.