A struggling offense and a plethora of pitchers means the Guardians will likely trade Shane Bieber
It’s been a rocky first couple months of the season for the Cleveland Guardians. They enter June with a losing record, yet remain very much in the hunt, sitting 3.5 games out of first place in their division as of Tuesday.
Ideastream Public Media’s sports commentator Terry Pluto says it’s a contrast to last year, when the Guardians were an electrifying team.
“The Guardians this year at one point were seven games under .500. They hadn't been that low since 2015. So, this has been a rougher start than they've had for quite a while,” Pluto said.
Last week, the Guardians started showing some signs of life on offense. But for the most part, runs have been hard to come by.
“They’re either last or second last in runs scored. Nobody's hit fewer home runs. I was stunned. Do you know their leading hitter, Jose Ramirez, is batting only .265? That's like a very average batting average. I was talking to Chris Antonetti, team president, at one point, and we were just in casual conversation, but he's like, ‘It's been amazing. You know, usually somebody's hot.' They haven't had a hot hitter all year. A little bit of late, Josh Naylor. The team went cold all at once,” Pluto said.
The Guardians have had a stellar pitching staff. But there have been struggles with that, too, especially in close games.
“While the bullpen’s numbers look good overall, they've blown a lot of saves. See, here's how you win those close one-run games. Your bullpen in the last few innings of the game shuts the other team down, and somehow or other, you find a way to score a run. And, remember last year, they used to say, find a way to win? The Guardians would win in unlikely fashion. But the base of all that was the bullpen hardly ever blew a game," Pluto said.
Despite the struggles, the Guardians keep developing dazzling pitchers in their farm system.
“Other teams actually marvel at Cleveland's ability to find new starters. So, here comes Logan Allen from the minors, drafted in 2020. Here he comes. He's in the rotation pitching great. Tanner Bibee, drafted in 2021. He's in the rotation, and both of these guys look like they're really good pitchers, just like they would find Shane Bieber. You know who's still with them now, though I believe he could be traded. They find starter after starter," Pluto said.
Pluto believes the Guardians will trade Bieber, their ace, in the coming months.
“Because it's Cleveland. It's the smaller market team. They have not been able to sign him for an extension and Bieber is open to going somewhere else for big dollars. So that's what's going on. So, they realize if we don't trade him, we can lose him. The trading deadline is August 2nd. Before then, they'll try to trade him and get an outfielder, somebody that can hit," Pluto said.
Despite their struggles, the Guardians remain very much in the division race.
“You're in a terrible division. The Minnesota Twins have a whole bunch of injuries. Everybody thought the White Sox are going to be good. They're not. So, they always say your goal is to win the World Series. The Guardians always tell you that. But the real goal is to get into the playoffs and see if you can get lucky and you got your pitching, you might do something,” Pluto said.
And, a good bit of news of late: Starting pitchers Triston McKenzie and Aaron Civale returned from the injured list, and had strong games in their return.
“So, you get these two guys, younger veterans Civale and McKenzie, come back. Then you have your two young guys, Logan Allen and Tanner Bibee. They have a guy in Triple-A named Gavin Williams. He is the next phenom pitcher. He's coming. For example, if they were to trade Bieber, he would probably be a guy that would be brought up. They have a lot of starting pitching,” Pluto said.
Pluto said it’s not time to panic, especially seeing the team come alive this past week.
“They can straighten this bullpen thing out. They really can. It's not hopeless at all. When it comes to pitching, they got enough to pick from. When it comes to hitting, they need a GPS and three dogs, bloodhounds, a map, something," Pluto said. "They can't find them! And they've drafted them, they've tried. They just cannot come up with them. So, sometimes that's what you do. You just have to go trade for them.”