If the Cleveland Guardians want to keep the good times rolling over the next 3-5 years, they need to sign Shane Bieber to a contract extension.
I just can't get this thought out of my head of the Guardians re-signing Bieber and allowing him to become the superstar mentor of the pitching staff much in the same way third baseman José Ramírez is now positioned to be for the lineup.
It's a no-brainer move the Guardians should make, but it's by no means a guarantee, even when you do factor in Bieber's recent injury history. At this point, he's been a dominant starter for a while, even with revamped mechanics that saw his velocity dip in 2022, but not his effectiveness. He sported the second-best ERA of his career at 2.88 over 31 starts, in addition to a 2.87 FIP and 132 ERA+. He might not be striking out hitters at the same rate these days, but he's walking guys at the lowest rate of his career as well.
Okay, So What Would a Shane Bieber Extension Look Like?
Believe it or not, but an extension for Bieber really isn't that far-fetched, especially as the Guardians are seemingly committed to increasing the payroll in this time of contention.
Let's take a gander at a couple recent pitcher extensions to see what the Guardians might have to work with. This September, the Mariners signed pitcher Luis Castillo to a five-year, $108 million extension through 2027 with an option for 2028. To be honest, that's an absolutely perfect example for Cleveland.
Stat-wise, Castillo and Bieber aren't all that far off, either. In 2022, the Mariners ace sported a 2.99 ERA between Cincinnati and Seattle, with a 3.07 FIP and 138 ERA+. There is of course plenty more to consider - Bieber is three years younger - but that's not a bad comparison to make.
Additionally, this past summer, Joe Musgrove of the Padres signed a five-year extension of his own with San Diego for $100 million. The 30-year-old righty finished 2022 with a 2.93 ERA, 3.59 FIP, and 127 ERA+.
Giving Bieber a five-year extension (with an option if you're feeling really wild) like that works in a number of ways. Not only do you buy out his last two years of arbitration, but you get him for another three years on top of that, where he'll become a free agent again when he is 32 and could easily command another massive contract.
It's hard to say exactly what Bieber's market value would be. Because pitching is often at a premium, there will no doubt be a team willing to spend big to acquire him, even if he barely hits 91 mph with his fastball these days.
But the Guardians could do themselves a real favor by locking Bieber up as soon as possible, ideally even before this spring training wraps up. With what appears to be a loaded farm system, keeping the likes of Bieber and Ramírez around for the long haul will be instrumental in maintaining that ideal blend of veteran talent and young, hungry players.