The Cleveland Guardians are likely going to trade Shane Bieber at some point. Whether that occurs at the trade deadline or next winter remains to be seen. If he becomes available, the SF Giants could really boost the starting rotation by connecting with Cleveland on a trade.
Could the SF Giants and Cleveland Guardians connect for a huge trade?
The first question to ask is, why would the Guardians even consider this? They currently have a 41-42 overall record, which is tied for first place with the Minnesota Twins in a weak AL Central division.
They are very much in the playoff picture, so they do not appear as obvious sellers. However, it bears mentioning that Bieber does not become a free agent until after the 2024 season. His trade value is likely not going to be any higher than it currently is.
If they hold on to him until next July, he would effectively be a rental and the rental market does not normally pay dividends. The Guardians operate as a small-market team and rarely retain key players until they reach free agency. In that sense, they operate similar to the Oakland A's.
However, they do have a habit of trading quality starters when they still have around 1.5 years or less of team control. They did it with Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, and Corey Kluber. The reasoning is that they can likely acquire more in terms of prospect capital than any potential compensatory pick if they issue a free agent a qualifying offer and he signs elsewhere.
This brings us back to Shane Bieber, who has been one of the better pitchers in the AL since he debuted with Cleveland back in 2018. In six seasons, he has registered a 3.22 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 1.10 WHIP, 10.2 K/9, and a 5.06 SO/W ratio. He has finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting three times, including being the Cy Young award winner in 2020.
The 2023 campaign has been a small step back for the right-hander, but that does not mean Cleveland will trade him at a discount. His value remains high. He has tallied a 3.48 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 1.18 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, and a 3.04 SO/W ratio in 17 starts.
He has generally handled heavy workload, making at least 30 starts and reaching 200 innings in two of the last three full seasons. He appears to be on a similar pace this year. The Giants' rotation definitely needs another addition, especially someone who can pitch deep into games.
With the number of bullpen games they have employed recently, adding Bieber would bring some much-needed stability and predictability to the pitching staff. The cost is going to be significant given that he has one year of team control remaining after this one and has a track record of high performance.
The Giants would likely need to part with major prospect capital. That is a tough balancing act, but it would give them a co-ace in the rotation for the next 15 months.
The rumor mill will begin to heat up soon enough. Any rental on a team that is selling will likely be dealt before the trade deadline. However, Bieber's market is something to monitor considering how the Guardians are performing and how recent history suggests that this is about the time when they trade a key pitcher.