Could the Cleveland Guardians pry Austin Hays away from Baltimore?

If the Cleveland Guardians are going to deal with the Baltimore Orioles, they should look to acquire outfielder Austin Hays.
Division Series - Baltimore Orioles v Texas Rangers - Game Three
Division Series - Baltimore Orioles v Texas Rangers - Game Three / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

The topic of the Baltimore Orioles being a trade partner this offseason is well-trod territory in these parts, and much of the proposed focus has been on former Cleveland minor leaguer Anthony Santander.

The 29-year-old is a free agent after next season and has averaged thirty home runs and 92 RBI over the past two seasons. If the Guardians were able to swing it, Santander would be a very welcome addition to the power-needy lineup.

But what about Austin Hays?

The 28-year-old just made his first All-Star game this past season, and for good reason. The outfielder slashed .275/.325/.444 with 16 home runs, 36 doubles, 67 RBIs, and a 114 OPS+. And over the past three seasons, when he became a regular with the Orioles, Hays has a 109 OPS+, averaging 32 doubles and 18 home runs a year.

With an additional two years of control, Hays should be a very enticing trade target for the Guardians. And if we're still talking about a potential Bieber trade here, there might still be some incentive for Baltimore to deal Hays. After all, the Orioles have a plethora of young outfield talent still trying to break through; guys like Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad - 23 and 24 respectively - will no doubt begin to get more playing time next season.

If the Orioles were to hang on to Cedric Mullins and Santander, it's entirely likely Cowser or Kjerstad could be the team's Opening Day left fielder. And if they could turn Hays into Shane Bieber, one imagines they'd have a hard time saying no to that.

Would Austin Hays Be Enough for the Guardians?

The answer there is probably yes. Bieber likely won't command an obscene trade package, even for a team that needs starting pitching as bad as the Orioles. But in Hays, the Guardians would still be receiving back an incredibly reliable outfielder who has 20-homer potential and sprays line drives all over the field. To put it in perspective, Hays' 36 doubles would have tied for the most on the Guardians this season with José Ramírez and Steven Kwan.

To be able to guarantee at least two years of that kind of production in the lineup - peppered with up-and-coming young players like Bo Naylor, Kyle Manzardo, and Chase DeLauter - it's worth parting ways with Bieber, as painful as that might be.