The Cleveland Guardians have not been able to carry over the magic they had during the 2022 season this year just yet. At the time of writing, the Guardians have posted a 27-33 record; the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins, however, are just 3.5 games ahead of them in the win column. Thus, it's not too late for the Guardians to mount a strong push for the division title.
But if worst comes to worst, the Guardians could very well decide to be sellers ahead of the August 1 MLB trade deadline. And one of their players that will surely draw a ton of interest on the trade market is Shane Bieber. Bieber has one year left of team control left after the 2023 season, so any contending team would be acquiring him won't just have him as a rental. But the Guardians may not get as much of a return in a potential trade as they might hope.
According to an anonymous executive that spoke with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Bieber may not be a game-changing presence for any team with World Series aspirations.
“I can’t say with 100 percent certainty he’s a playoff difference-maker. He may help you get there, but I don’t know that he’s the answer in the playoffs,” the executive said.
Ever since earning a nailed-on role in the Guardians rotation in 2018, Shane Bieber has provided mid to top of the rotation starter value. In fact, from 2019 to 2022, Bieber was one of the best starters in the entire MLB, amassing a total of 16.2 WAR in 588.1 innings pitched (per FanGraphs).
However, Bieber's 2023 performance, much like the executive alluded to, should give interested teams some pause. His fastball velocity continues to dip, and he's currently posting the worst pitching peripherals of his career. He is currently posting career-worsts in FIP (fielding independent pitching) and strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Thus, the executive may be onto something; Bieber should indeed help out playoff teams with his ability to soak up innings and put up positive value. But he's not the final piece that pushes a contending team over the top, a la Justin Verlander with the Houston Astros back in 2017.
Bieber has time to figure things out, but the Guardians do not have the same luxury especially as we get closer to the MLB trade deadline.