Cubs Predicted to Get Big Boost From Triple Crown Winner in Midseason Trade

jed hoyer

Getty The Cubs could use another starting pitcher for 2024. But is Jed Hoyer saving his pennies to pursue Corbin Burnes next winter?

The Chicago Cubs made one significant addition to their rotation ahead of 2024 by signing Japanese hurler Shōta Imanaga to a four-year deal. However, the starting staff could use some more help. If they don’t go after Jordan Montgomery in free agency, is it because they might be eyeing Cleveland Guardians hurler Shane Bieber ahead of the trade deadline?

ESPN’s Eric Karabell shared bold 2024 predictions for every American League team as it relates to fantasy baseball. While talking about the Guardians, he threw in his thoughts on Chicago landing the former Cy Young winner. Karabell is predicting Bieber won’t just land in the Windy City as a rental player, but that he’ll also make 14 starts for the club. This isn’t the first time a prediction has involved the right-handed hurler landing with the Cubs, either.

Bieber won the 2020 American League Cy Young Award and left no doubt about it during the pandemic-shortened season. Across 12 starts and 77.1 innings, he led the league in wins (eight), ERA (1.63) and strikeouts (122) to also take home the pitching triple crown. This performance helped him finish fourth in AL MVP Award voting, as well.

Bieber Looking to Have a Solid Platform Year Before Free Agency

Bieber’s 2023 season wasn’t bad when looking at his surface stats. It just didn’t necessarily compare to what he did the three prior seasons.

Across 128 innings pitched last year for Cleveland, Bieber posted a 6-6 record with a 3.80 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 107 strikeouts. Between 2020 and 2022, he tossed 374 innings off the strength of 59 starts. That led to a 28-13 record with a 2.70 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 454 strikeouts. He earned his second career All-Star Game selection in 2021 and placed seventh in AL Cy Young Award voting while winning his first Gold Glove Award in 2022, per Baseball-Reference.

He’ll have a better chance at maximizing his earning potential in free agency by pairing his typical production with something close to 30 starts in 2024. Bieber has reached that number twice in his career since debuting in 2018. He appeared in 34 games (33 starts) in 2019 and toed the slab for 31 starts in 2022. The next-highest total he’s produced in that area came in 2023 with 21 starts.

What Could the Hurler’s Next Contract Look Like?

Bieber is set to earn $13.125 million before hitting free agency in November, per Spotrac. But what could his next contract look like?

The Athletic’s Tim Britton did a week-long series analyzing the possible value of a contract extension for players in various situations. Bieber was among those he discussed on March 4. Ahead of the 2023 season, Britton projected a seven-year, $168 million deal. That was on the heels of a 4.8-fWAR performance. But after watching that number drop down to 2.1 in 2023, his extension value also took a dip.

“Bieber missed two months with elbow inflammation — the second time in three years he’s missed a chunk of time with a relatively concerning injury,” he said.  “(He had a shoulder injury in 2021.) Perhaps worse, when he did pitch, his velocity remained down and his strikeout rate plummeted further.”

Britton’s new projection settled in at five years and $95 million. So, a fully healthy year with his typical production and maybe some improved velocity would be big for the right-hander. Maybe a change in scenery would help, as well.

Read More