Shane Bieber had a rough Sunday outing with the Guardians.
The White Sox shelled Bieber early and often on Sunday as the Guardians went down 3-6.
And by early, I mean second-inning.
The White Sox crushed Bieber to the tune of five runs in the second inning en route to Bieber coughing up six total runs through six innings of work.
Further, the Sox were brutally efficient in their work against Bieber — scoring six runs on just eight hits.
The Guardians, by contrast, managed just three runs on 11 hits.
The loss on Sunday wasn’t all Bieber’s fault, for sure.
But his lackluster play brings up a question hanging in the background of this season: what’s Bieber’s future in Cleveland?
The idea of moving on from Bieber two years ago would have been sacrilege.
Bieber was in the midst of a stellar season — he finished 8-1 with an incredible 1.63 ERA and 122 strikeouts, both league highs in the COVID-shortened season.
He finished fourth in MVP voting that season and won the AL Cy Young, finishing ahead of Kenta Maeda and Hyun Jin Ryu.
Shane Bieber had given up only three home runs since May 14.
White Sox hit two in the second inning. Garcia and Pollock.
— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) July 24, 2022
The righty looked to be the future in Cleveland, along with Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger.
Flash forward to the present.
Clevinger and Carrasco are long gone and Bieber’s never been able to recapture that season of magic.
He hasn’t been awful by any stretch of the imagination.
Bieber’s career ERA is 3.34 and he’s won 45 games over a five-season career in the pros.
And this season has looked a lot more like that career average than his stellar 2020.
Through 18 games, Bieber’s got a 3.55 ERA and a 4-6 record.
On The Move?
Obviously, the Guardians would love to hang on to Bieber.
And with around two-and-a-half years of team control left, where’s the rush to get any deal done?
Apparently, there’s a huge rush.
Bieber and Cleveland held negotiations on a contract extension back in May, to no avail.
And whenever a player rejects out of hand a team’s contract offer, the rumor mill gets churning.
The Athletic’s Zach Meisal recently discussed the prospect of a Bieber trade:
“Really, any member of the rotation could be mentioned here, sans Triston McKenzie. If the Guardians want to sell high on a starter — we’ve mentioned Zach Plesac’s name in this space throughout the year — this might be the trade market to do so. As for Bieber, he’s the first one of the group eligible for free agency (after the 2024 season). He hasn’t resembled the overbearing, unanimous Cy Young Award-winning type of hurler, but an effective starting pitcher with 2 1/2 years of control could still fetch a haul.”
It would be hugely surprising to see Bieber depart this season.
Despite his shelling on Sunday, he’s been generally the best pitcher in a mediocre rotation.
He’s also contributed to the team’s contention in the AL Central.
Moving on from Bieber would mean ending the team’s push for the playoffs this season.
But there are also reasons to at least examine the market.
Shane Bieber never pitched well when he has more than 5 days rest. I had a feeling today was going to be a dud. Just makes last night more infuriating.
— Chad In Cleveland (@CMKinCLE) July 24, 2022
Generational talent Juan Soto is apparently available for trade, with the Nationals wanting young and controllable players in any move.
And while Bieber doesn’t necessarily fit that bill, he certainly does for the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani.
The Angels apparently want more proven players to keep them competitive if they are to move on from Ohtani.
A one-for-one isn’t happening.
But given how the market is starting to shake up, it might be worth a phone call or two just to gauge Bieber’s market.