Mandy Bell put the odds on trading Shane Bieber at 70% in her recent newspaper, and Zack Meisel, in his most recent article says, “the guess here is Shane Bieber gets moved this winter.” Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds are the most commonly rumored teams in connection to Bieber (possibly because if Corbin Burnes is available from Milwaukee, they are unlikely to trade him within their division). Now that the Tyler Glasnow domino seems to have fallen or to be about to fall, and Jack Flaherty and Tyler Mahle sign, I suspect if there’s movement on Bieber, we might see something happen fairly soon.
The article below is written to help you get to know some potential players on organizations who COULD be involved in a Bieber trade. I write this with the full knowledge that Bieber could end up staying in Cleveland, or he could be traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks (with Deyvison De Los Santos’ full rights as part of the return?), the Atlanta Braves, the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Angels, or any number of other teams. In fact, I feel like publishing this article will probably ensure that Bieber doesn’t end up with the Reds or Cubs. But, we are in a lull for trade and free agent activity, so, if you’re interested, you can begin to process what kind of players we should be thinking about when it comes to Bieber being dealt right now.
It’s difficult to say the exact value of the return but we now have a good sense of the pitching free agency market (strong!) and of what Glasnow received. Glasnow has a .40 lower FIP than Bieber over the last three years, but has thrown 200 fewer innings in that time period. He was due about twice as much as Bieber was, but the Rays attached $10 million of Manual Margot to him, and it sounds like the Dodgers are only willing to do the deal because Glasnow is expected to agree to an extension with them. In return, the Rays have received a 45 Future Value Prospect in Ryan Pepiot RHSP and a 40 FV in utility outfielder and pulled fly ball merchant Jonny Deluca.
Interestingly, Bieber and his agent also put out into the Twitter world that they are open to pursuing an extension. The Guardians don’t seem like they HAVE to attach any contract to him, so I think expecting a similar 45 FV and 40 FV, if the Guardians are willing to include a prospect the acquiring team likes, is reasonable. So, alternatively, that could be one player who is a 50, or maybe even a 55.
With that said, let’s take a look at what players could be on the table. I have tried to use FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline to determine the Future Value grades. First, the Cubs:
The best players/prospects who may be available on the Cubs are 24 year-old, right-handed hitting infielder/outfielder Christopher Morel (45 FV), 26 year-old, right-handed starting pitcher Hayden Wesneski (50 FV), 24 year-old, right-handed starting pitcher Ben Brown (50 FV), 21 year-old, left-handed hitting outfielder Owen Caissie (55 FV) and 21 year-old right-handed hitting outfielder Kevin Alcantara (55 FV). I don’t think Morel is on the table unless the Guardians are trading Bieber and Clase as part of the deal because he has proven his worth at the major league level, but I have included him because it does seem the Cubs are open to trading him in the right deal.
Morel is projected for a 110 wRC+ and a 29.3/8.8 K/BB% and .223 ISO after putting up a 119 wRC+, 31/8.4 K/BB& and .260 ISO in 2023 and a 136 wRC+ against LHP in 2023. Scouts think he will be an adequate corner outfielder, but it’s fair to note he’s had his defensive struggles in the outfield so far. I would expect him to end up in right field were he on the Guardians.
Morel can hit the ball a long way:
Here is Pat Hughes’ radio call of Christopher Morel’s walk off home run: pic.twitter.com/mZ1okbngKN— MLB Clutch Moments And Walk Offs (@MLBWalk_Offs) August 17, 2023
I think he’s a player you should be able to bat 4th or 5th in your lineup for the next five years and feel great about it. He’s also, as you can see above, an entertainer.
Wesneski is projected for a 4.40 FIP in 2023. Wesneski threw 89 innings for the Cubs as a sixth starter/longman type. He’s the kind of guy you can dream of as a backend of the rotation starter but assume will give you some good relief innings at the least. His primary issue is giving up a lot of homers on his fastball and cutter, but he has a great sweeper. The Cubs are a good pitching development organization, so I can’t say it’s wise to count on the Guardians transforming Wesneski into a reliable 4th/5th starter, but I also never count Cleveland’s pitching factory out. At the very least, Wesneski is a useful bullpen arm with a career 3.49 ERA and 8.9/4 K/BB/9 in relief roles.
Hayden Wesneski, Nasty 83mph Sweeper. pic.twitter.com/4r1tq4PRI5— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 22, 2023
Ben Brown, to me, would be an exciting player to add to your organization, even for 2024. Brown is projected for a 4.07 FIP by Steamer. He finished the year in Triple-A putting up a 4.66 FIP with 12.39/6.32 K/BB/9. Brown has potential for mid-rotation starter, as long as he can keep the walks under control. An upper 90’s fastball and a hard slider are his bread-and-butter. It would be up to Cleveland’s pitching development to put the finishing touches on him, and quickly, with Bieber gone and more pitching depth needed.
Ben Brown had an electric fastball and showed off both breaking balls in his AA debut. He had a 5 IP, 4 H, 1R, 2 BB, 9 K line. I’m very excited to see how they continue to build upon his repertoire. It’s already impressive. Check out all of Brown’s strikeouts. pic.twitter.com/GgvGrQk8Fc— Greg Zumach (@IvyFutures) August 7, 2022
Owen Caissie put up a 144 wRC+ in Double-A last year with a .230 ISO and 31.1/14.4 K/BB%. He played mostly as a right-fielder and would likely be ready to help at some point this season if all goes well for him at Columbus. He’s been better against RHP but handled lefties at above a .700 OPS clip in the minors, which could make him playable as more than a platoon. His contact issues make him somewhat of a Joey Gallo-archetype, which is my aesthetic, but may not be yours.
Owen Caissie smokes his 22nd home run!— The Call Up | An MLB Prospect Podcast (@The_CallUpPod) September 16, 2023
We’ve got him ranked higher than most as the 30th overall prospect on our Top 100. He’s got some of the most impressive power in the entire minor leagues. pic.twitter.com/4ewsnfjbm2
Kevin Alcantara put up a 130 wrc+ with a 33.3/14.3 K/BB% and a .250 ISO in 2023 at Double-A. He’s 6 foot 6, 188 pounds, and runs like a gazelle. There are swing and miss issues here, but Alcantara is a very exciting prospect with solid potential to be a good centerfielder and hit 20-30 home runs there someday. Unfortunately, he probably doesn’t help the major league team until 2025. Still, he is a really good guy to have in your organization
Cubs prospect Kevin Alcantara just missed a home run here.— Frank Stampfl (@Roto_Frank) November 3, 2023
Sound on pic.twitter.com/QdIxvHWtDw
I could see a Bieber deal to the Cubs with either Caissie, Brown or Alcantara as the primary piece received, with other lower-level prospects surrounding one of those players. A deal would start to get into overpay territory if Morel can be acquired without giving up Clase, or if at least two of the above five players are involved in the return.
Now for the Reds and what they can offer:
The Reds have Christian Encarnacion-Strand 24 year old RH 1B/DH (40+ FV), Spencer Steer 26 year old RH OF (50 FV), and T.J. Friedl 28 year old, LH OF, as major league pieces, Connor Phillips 22 year old RHSP (5 5), Cam Collier 19 year old 3Bman (50 FV), Chase Petty 20 year old RHSP (50 FV), Rece Hinds 23 year old RH OF (45 FV), Lyon Richardson 23 year old RH OF (45+ FV), Julian Aguiar 22 year old RHSP (40 FV), Hector Rodriguez 19 year old LH OF (45 FV), and Blake Dunn 25 year old RH OF (40 FV) as the primary pieces.
I think the Guardians would have to include Clase in a deal to acquire any one of the three major league pieces I’ve listed here in Encarnacion-Stand, Steer, and Friedl. Encarnacion-Strand is the star hitter of the group but he is very likely incapable of playing outfield, so that would push Josh Naylor into right field. His 112 wRC+ and .201 ISO in his rookie season look enticing, however, and between Triple-A and Cincinnati last season, Encarnacion-Strand hit 33 home runs.
Friedl is probably the most available of the three but is probably the Reds’ best option for centerfield currently and he is mostly a strongside platoon option as he cannot hit left-handed pitching. I think he’s both too valuable to the Reds to be included and not quite enough for the Guardians to want him as the primary part of the return, if that makes sense.
Spencer Steer is probably the best fit for the Guardians of the three, but, also, likely the least available. Steer can play any infield or corner outfield position, put up 2.1 fWAR in his first season with a 118 wRC+ and 148 wRC+ against LHP. At 26 years old, he’s a little on the older side so I do think there’s a slight possibility the Reds could make him available but it’s hard for me to imagine it wouldn’t take moving Bieber and a great reliever like Clase or Sam Hentges to get it done.
Connor Phillips debuted late last season for Cincinnati, making five fairly forgettable starts. However, he has a great curveball and a good slider and a fastball that averages around 96.5 mph. He has amazing pitch qualities, but his command is so suspect, it makes whether or not he can stick as a starter questionable, but he’s very young and there is room to develop.
Among pitches with a minimum of 25 PA as the qualifier, Connor Phillips’ sweeper ranked:— OnBaseMachine (@RedsFan_Brandon) December 14, 2023
•4th lowest wOBA (.111)
•2nd highest whiff % (48.9)
•2nd lowest xSLG (.116)
•5th lowest xwOBA (.174)#Reds pic.twitter.com/3Lew4njkk2
For what it’s worth, Trent Rosecrans for the Athletic says the Reds won’t be trading Philips or any “top end talent” for starting-pitching.
Many Guardians fans wanted the Guardians to draft Cam Collier in 2022, so perhaps they would be happy to get him on the team now that he put up a 98 wRC+ as an 18 year old at Single-A? Collier looks to be a good defender at third base and he’s even flashed some of his power ceiling. To me, Collier is the kind of player you acquire in two years when you know Jose Ramirez is probably going to move to DH in another 2 years. I wouldn’t enjoy trading for him now unless he was part of a secondary deal to a rebuilding club to get a win-now piece.
Chase Petty is a very exciting young starter and I suspect you’d see a Reds fan riot if the team traded him for Shane Bieber. He can throw 102 mph and he’s looked pretty much dominant through the High-A level as a 20 year old. Now, there is certainly risk of him ending up a reliever, as there is with any pitcher, but especially hard throwers. But, this would be somewhat similar to the Guardians trading a Daniel Espino (with no similar injury history) for a rental starting pitcher, and I find that very unlikely.
If I were the Reds, I’d be trying to sell the Guardians on a Rece Hinds as a main piece in a Shane Bieber return. “Hey, Guards, we hear you need power. How does a 6’4” right-handed hitting outfielder with a minor league ISO of .245 sound?” And, if Quincy Wheeler were working for the Guardians, I’d love to bet on the Joey Gallo-like potential of Hinds. Sadly, Hinds also has a 33.8/7.8 K/BB% in the minors. It’s just not a sure thing he’s going to make enough contact to get to his power, but, personally, I wouldn’t complain if the Guardians bet on him. He’s also struggled to stay healthy, but he’s also stoled 42/59 bases in the minors so he’s got some speed, too.
RECE HINDS‼️ 5 GAMES... 6 HOME RUNS‼️ pic.twitter.com/sQt5PbxWsM— Votto De La Cruz (@EvilJoeyVotto) June 17, 2023
The Reds’ Lyon Richardson also made a brief and unfortunate MLB debut for the team, with an 8.64 ERA in four starts. However, there is a lot to like about him as he’s got an upper 90’s fastball and great changeup, and solid curve and slider. He has a 10.36/3.80 K/BB% in the minors but has struggled a bit with command as he’s advanced levels. At still only 23, that’s something he can probably improve on, but it currently makes him look more like a backend of the rotation starter.
Lyon The Lion Richardson pic.twitter.com/J9ySdsMIC8— Votto De La Cruz (@EvilJoeyVotto) September 1, 2023
My under the radar Reds prospect is Julian Aguiar who has a 10.37/2.50 K/BB% and 3.17 ERA in 42 minor league starts, ending up in Double-A last season. Aguiar has been hitting upper 90’s more consistently on his fastball and striving for more distinction between his curveball and slider, something you’d think a strong pitching organization like Cleveland could help with achieving.
Had a chance to go back and watch some of Julian Aguiar’s last start in Dayton and his first inning was as impressive as it gets.— OnBaseMachine (@RedsFan_Brandon) July 13, 2023
Fastball popping at 97 mph with whiffs on his slider and a changeup with fading action. #Reds pic.twitter.com/NdJaL4bZGl
Hector Rodriguez is a very Guardians-esque player, as a 5’6” jack-of-all-trades who has amazing bat control that has helped him get to more power than the scouts initially believed he would (.197 ISO so far). At only 19 years old in High-A, he certainly seems like the kind of guy who will AT LEAST have a long career as a super utility player, and he has the potential to surprise a lot of people. If you’re familiar with the career of Jose Ramirez, that’s the kind of trajectory for which you can hope Rodriguez will follow (15.7/6.3 K/BB% so far, also).
In July, I ranked Hector Rodriguez as my #2 Reds hitting prospect, just behind Noelvi Marte. That’s how much I believe in him.— Bryce Spalding (@bryce_spalding) December 9, 2023
He’s followed up a phenomenal year by crushing the Dominican Winter League as well…
.300/.328/.467 across 120 AB at 19 years old
League average:… pic.twitter.com/95wKgX4Uu3
What if I told you that there was a right-handed outfielder with a 156 wRC+ a .201 ISO 23.3/12.2 K/BB% in the minors? Blake Dunn is that player but the problem is that he’s 25 years old and has yet to make his major league debut. Part of that is that he was drafted out of his senior year in college and missed a bunch of time with injuries (he’s played only 172 games in three minor league seasons). Dunn was finally healthy in 2023 and he was named the Reds’ minor league player of the year by Baseball America, putting up a 163 wRC+ while playing centerfield for the Reds Double-A affiliate. Personally, I think Dunn is a great example of the type of blocked, star-crossed player who thrives if given a chance to prove himself at the major league level. But, not having reached Triple-A and turning 25 is a problem, I admit, and that’s the reason Dunn wasn’t chosen in the recent Rule 5 draft. Dunn certainly can’t be the main piece in a Bieber deal, but I’d definitely be interested in him being included as part of the package (not having to be on the 40-man) and getting the chance to see how he handled reps against ML pitching in Spring Training.
Since I first wrote about Blake Dunn (OF, Reds) for @downonthefarm12, he's hit safely in 12 straight games (.396/.458/.793) with four doubles, one triple, five homers, and four stolen bases.— Robert Davidson (@rbrtdvdsn) August 28, 2023
Now watch this drive: pic.twitter.com/D2hf2GDpGs
As I said, we don’t know if the Bieber trade will happen or not, and we don’t know for sure if the Cubs or Reds will be involved if it does. But, I hope the above research gives you some names to consider in the event that the trade does happen. If nothing else, you’ve become familiar with the kinds of prospects that other up-and-coming teams have to which you can compare folks like Johnathan Rodriguez, Angel Martinez, Chase DeLauter, Kyle Manzardo and Petey Halpin in the Guardians’ organization. I think there are things to like about all the names above and I do think there are some potential packages above that would provide enough ammunition for a team to target and acquire Shane Bieber. If I had to guess, the Reds have the best potential and depth to provide a main piece of value and a secondary piece or two to make a deal worthwhile for both teams.