3. Trade for Shane Bieber
Shane Bieber is not an ace anymore, but he's still a valuable starter in this league, even if saw a decline in stuff during the 2023 season. If the Cardinals were targeting him as one of their two best starters, I'd have concerns, but grabbing him as the third starter would be a huge win for St. Louis, especially with his low trade value.
Bieber only threw 128 innings in 2023 due to right elbow inflation that had him out most of the second half but was able to come back and make two starts in September, including an excellent six-inning performance against the Cincinnati Reds where he allowed just one run while striking out seven batters.
In the 21 starts he made last year though, he posted a 3.80 ERA and saw a decline in his strikeouts (7.5 K/9). There are multiple things that appeal to me though about Bieber, with the best selling point being the upside he provides at the extremely low price point on the trade market. Due to his decline, haing one year left on his contract, and projected to make $12.5 million in arbitration this year, his value is at an all-time low, and if Cleveland can get a position player with control back in return, I think they jump on it.
Unlike a Logan Gilbert type, Bieber is not going to cost the Cardinals a combination of Nolan Gorman and Brendan Donovan to acquire. Instead, the Cardinals could give up someone like Dylan Carlson, and Bieber would fill that third rotation spot for 2024. After the season, they could look to bring back Bieber on an extension, explore the loaded free agent pitching market next offseason, or allow a prospect like Tekoah Roby or Tink Hence to step into his spot in 2025.
Bieber actually feels like a low-risk, high-reward move to me for the role he would be playing in this scenario. I think there is a ton of risk in banking on him to be your number one starter, and still a decent amount of risk in asking him to be your number two, but as the number three starter in the Cardinals rotation, he can easily be a quality three but has the upside of a true number two if he rebounds from a down season last year.
I debated for a while as to which name I would send to Cleveland in this deal, and it ultimately came down to Carlson or Tyler O'Neill. With O'Neill only having one year of control left as well, I figured the Guardians would prefer Carlson and his team control, and so that's the framework I went with.
Side note here. I love Tyler Glasnow, and selfishly, I want to see him as a Cardinal. Maybe the Cardinals could look to give up a Tommy Edman or Alec Burleson to the Rays for him instead and create a three-headed monster, but I think it complicates the rest of the roster building due to Glasnow's $25 million salary (unless Tampa Bay ate some of it). If the Cardinals sign both Nola and Gray, I think Glasnow is extremely unlikely, but if you take out one of those signings, he instantly becomes the trade target I want the most.