Ok I am now thoroughly convinced that the correct move to make this summer is a trade involving Shane Bieber, in return for an outfield bat (one who is capable of 25+ HR power). Admittedly, I have been on the fence about a potential Bieber trade. I am a eternal optimist with this club, and at one point I certainly thought a three-year extension in the $60-65M range could entice Bieber to remain a bit longer.
However after doing the research... and the recent returns by Aaron Civale and Triston McKenzie respectively, I believe the Guardians should explore such a deal. They certainly seem capable of moving on while still being a legitimate division contender with this current squad. Maybe I'm also a prisoner of the moment, but Civale and McKenzie looked great over the weekend. And if they can show those types of performances their next three to four starts, well then you really should strike a deal while the iron is hot.
Would such a trade result in mixed emotions and fan backlash? Yeah, probably. But for this team to go from divisional contender to World Series contender there will be some difficult decisions to be made in the next 18 months.
And it's not as if the Guardians would be left high and dry in the rotation. The day after such a trade the team could send out a rotation of McKenzie, Tanner Bibee, Civale, Logan T. Allen, and Gavin Williams (should they decide to promote him). That rotation does leave you with some concerns, yes, but it's also more than capable of winning their fair share of games too.
So what exactly would/should the Guardians expect back in such a trade? That's a great question and luckily if you go back to last July, the Luis Castillo trade can shed some light on just that subject. In that deal the Mariners sent shortstops Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo, as well as right-handed pitchers Levi Stoudt and Andrew Moore. At the time of the trade Marte was rated at the Mariners top prospect by MLB, while Arroyo was ranked 3rd, and Stoudt was the 5th ranked prospect in the Mariners system.
We all know that "prospects are prospects, for a reason" they have to live up to those expectations in order for the trade to be beneficial. With that in mind, and a desperate need for some thump from an outfield bat, there are a few teams that could be great trade partners for the Guardians.
St. Louis seems like a logical fit. Yes the Cardinals are struggling right now, but it's difficult to envision that team being down for long; and acquiring Bieber would signal that they think they can compete in a very weak NL Central. Top prospect Jordan Walker would fit the Guardians mold in regards to contact, but Walker has also proven to deliver some power as well. It's no reason to see that with that combination of skill he ranks as the number one prospect in all of baseball by many services. Toss in Tyler O'Neill and suddenly we have a package taking shape that benefits both clubs.
Additionally, Baltimore could stand to add a starting pitcher of Bieber's caliber. There's little chance that they can catch the Rays, but the Orioles appear to be very much in the Wild Card conversation. Adding Bieber would only solidify that notion. In return the Guardians would be wise to target an Austin Hays or Anthony Santander type, as well as one of the Orioles top outfield prospects in Colton Cowser (ranked 2nd in the O's system) or Heston Kjerstad (ranked 4th).
Now, neither of these proposed packages would be all that returns in such a trade, but more of an idea of what the Guardians should theoretically expect to begin discussions on such a deal.
Trading Bieber won't be popular, but it seems inevitable - and with 1.5 years of control (two playoff runs), his value is still quite high. Again for the Guardians to be taken serious they really do need to add an outfield bat and make some moves around the edges (likely with internal candidates) to get to that next level.