Cleveland Will Be Best Place for Shane Bieber to Resurrect His Career

Shane Bieber will spend the 2025 and 2026 seasons convincing teams he can still be an elite pitcher. Cleveland may be the best place for him to do that.
Apr 2, 2024; Seattle, Washington, USA; Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Shane Bieber (57) pitches against the Mariners
Apr 2, 2024; Seattle, Washington, USA; Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Shane Bieber (57) pitches against the Mariners / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

I was at what turned out to be Shane Bieber's last game of the season. For the first three innings or so it was Luis Castillo of the Mariners, not Bieber, who seemed on his way to a shutout. Bieber was down a few MPH from his first start against the A's, and threw a disconcertingly low number of first-pitch strikes. Surely the Mariners, with a lineup full of power hitters, would figure Bieber out the second or third time through the order.

But suddenly it was the sixth inning, and Seattle was still scoreless, and Bieber had nine strikeouts and zero walks. Rather than figuring him out, the Mariners were more or less helpless the second time through the order. We take for granted that a guy can just summon a 90 MPH fastball with pinpoint control, but the reality is that only a dozen or so men on the planet can do it at the level Bieber does at his best. When you realize he did so against Seattle with intense pain in his elbow, you can't help but be impressed.

So what do we do now? In the short run, the Guardians need a starter. The rainout on Sunday gives them a break; with a day off Thursday they could keep everyone on four days rest through the Yankees series next weekend without a fifth starter. That could be enough time for Xavion Curry or Ben Lively to get ready for a start.

In the long run, Bieber will enter free agency in the midst of a lengthy rehab from surgery. Bieber seems likely to bet on himself, which would point to taking a short-term deal and hoping for a big payday after he proves he is healthy. Will that short-term deal be with Cleveland? That may come down to whether he feels confident in the treatment he gets during his rehab. 2025 is probably a lost year for Bieber and whoever signs him, so 2026 is where he would prove himself healthy or not.

That creates an opportunity for a two-year deal, or one year with some sort of option attached. The Guardians might do it out of respect for Bieber and because the total cost of the package will likely be less than what one year from a good starter would cost. Bieber might do it if he sees Cleveland as the best place to re-establish his value for one last shot at a big contract.

Bieber will be 31 years old at the end of the 2026 season. As a comparison, Jacob deGrom was nearing his 35th birthday and had totaled 38 starts in the last three years when he signed a 5-year, $185 million dollar deal with the Rangers in 2023. Even though deGrom has only made six starts since signing that deal, it should serve as a reminder that the ship has not sailed on Bieber getting that sort of deal. As he begins his rehab, he will make decisions based on what helps him secure a big contract. It will be up to the Guardians to make a case that Cleveland is the best place to do that.

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