Cleveland Guardians: A Shane Bieber extension is now or never
If the Cleveland Guardians are going to sign Shane Bieber to an extension, it has to happen now or it won’t happen at all.
Cleveland Guardians fans are all too familiar with watching their favorite starting pitchers, burgeoning with talent at the peak of their careers, suddenly don a new uniform. From Corey Kluber to Mike Clevinger to Carlos Carrasco. Hell, as far back as C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee. It’s a nauseating, repetitive exercise that Cleveland fans and talking heads alike perform each time the Guardians develop All-Star talent.
Shane Bieber stands as the latest rendition of a long list of starting pitchers whose career path likely turns away from the Guardians. In five short years with the team, Bieber has gone from just another organizational arm with solid stuff and a calm demeanor to a Cy Young-winning ace pitcher earning a start in the 2019 All-Star Game.
Pitching coach Carl Willis told Cleveland.com that Bieber is “a gamer” who wants to be in “big situations.” But that gamer mentality, Cy Young statistics and near-MVP performances on the mound prompt a larger question, one that arose for the first time in regards to Bieber this offseason: Is a contract extension in the works?
Yeah, the high of the Guardians actually signing someone (José Ramírez) to a long-term extension is going to quickly fade. Just wait until Jon Heyman and Ken Rosenthal start tweeting rumors about a big-market team sniffing around for Bieber. We’ve enjoyed Cleveland’s willingness to pony up money to build a core group of players for a sizable amount of time – finally – but Bieber’s situation really holds ownership’s feet to the fire.
To be blunt, a Bieber extension has to come now, or it won’t come at all.
In his first season of arbitration, Bieber is making $6 million, around $5 million short of what Spotrac projects to be his market value. He still has two more years of arbitration eligibility before becoming an unrestricted free agent for his age-30 season. If approached the right way and with the right incentive structure, the Guardians can approach Bieber with a tangible extension that not only eats up his remaining arbitration years, but keeps him in Cleveland for a long time.
It’s doable, and isn’t out of the realm of precedent possibilities. San Diego Padres pitcher Blake Snell signed with the Tampa Bay Rays when he was 26 – the same age as Bieber is now – on a five-year, $50 million extension. A similar deal can and should be presented to Bieber immediately to at least get the ball rolling. Even a Francisco Lindor-style deal (seven years, $100 million) would be feasible for the Guardians and allow Bieber to become a top-paid pitcher.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, Bieber is represented by Dennis Wyrick via Rosenhaus Sports. Fortunately for Cleveland, though, while Bieber ended his minor-league career in MLB’s top 100 prospect rankings, he still doesn’t have the sort of major-league service time that would warrant a record-breaking deal.
The deal needs to come as soon as possible, though, if Cleveland wants to maintain Bieber and ensure his price or location aspirations don’t become too much to handle. I think they waited too long on Lindor, which is why he’s a Met, but the Guardians jumped on Ramírez, which is why it’s likely he’ll be here through this rebuild.
Locking up that number-one guy, that go-to ace to man your rotation that can become a veteran for a new crop of talented throwers speeding through the minors, is such a crucial step toward becoming a championship-caliber team. It’s now or never, Cleveland. Don’t make Bieber another name on the list of “used to haves.”