Finally, we come to the elephant in the room in Shane Bieber. Bieber is entering his final season of arbitration eligibility which means yet again the Guardians are at a crossroads with a franchise cornerstone and yet again it feels like the most likely outcome is that Cleveland trades him away before they have to pay him real money.
Bieber's performance with Cleveland warrants a big payday for him. He won the Cy Young in 2020 and in his six seasons with the Guardians, Shane has averaged a 3.27 ERA despite a relatively down year this past season as he dealt with inflammation in his elbow. Assuming he is fully healthy, Bieber remains one of the best arms in baseball and he is likely to make significantly more than the over $10 million he made in 2023.
All of this raises the question of Bieber's future with the Guardians and the signs are becoming more and more numerous that he is not interested in negotiating an extension with the team and instead wants to test free agency after the 2024 season. Cleveland has a history of trading this type of player away and given the lack of top quality arms on the free agent market this offseason, don't be surprised if Cleveland shops Bieber aggressively this winter in search of a big return.