When it comes to possible trade candidates this offseason for the Cleveland Guardians, one name instantly comes to mind, Shane Bieber.
Of all the types of surprises that exist, a trade of Bieber would be of the unsurprising variety. This could be exactly why a trade of Bieber is projected by Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter. Reuter identified Every MLB Team's Player Most Likely to Be Traded This Offseason, with Bieber being Cleveland's entry into the list.
The unfortunate part for the Guardians with this type of deal would be the diminished return they would get now versus a year ago. Bieber will be entering his final arbitration-eligible year in 2024, meaning that a team that acquires him would get one potential postseason run rather than two. There is usually a substantial difference when comparing trade packages for players who are controllable beyond the year in which they are acquired. There was a very real scenario that Cleveland could have traded Bieber last year, but a midseason injury forced the front office to part ways with Aaron Civale instead.
There is a performance-related aspect that could play a factor in any sort of return for Bieber. The combination of a a notable drop in velocity combined with his strikeouts per nine decreasing for the fourth consecutive season. It may be difficult for the Guardians to get anything worthwhile for his services without having another player attached from Cleveland's end. However, the return for Bieber may not be the primary driving force in a deal.
"With a $12.2 million projected salary in his final year of arbitration, flipping him to create some financial flexibility could be a priority for the Cleveland front office, especially following the emergence of rookies Tanner Bibee, Logan Allen and Gavin Williams."- Joel Reuter on Shane Bieber
The Guardians would be able to lean on the pitching trio that emerged last season while taking the $12+ million Bieber is projected to make and hopefully spend it on adding a much-needed bat. It would be hard to argue with this approach if they are able to navigate the offseason in a way that sees them add more power to a lineup that hit an MLB-low 124 home runs last season. If not, they may be better off hanging on to the 28-year-old veteran for the time being. No matter how things play out, expect trade rumors involving Bieber to be a recurring theme this winter.