Their are now 28 teams that have begun their off-season and many of them have already began making moves to improve for next season. The Baltimore Orioles have recently claimed left handed pitcher Tucker Davidson off waivers from the Kansas City Royals but are also looking to make some bigger moves this off-season.
With the Birds success in the majors over the last two seasons, and overflowing prospect pool in the minor leagues, other teams are now looking to the Orioles to get some help. Our friends at awaybackgone.com (the FanSided site for the Cleveland Guardians) have shown in interest in acquiring Austin Hays and in the spirit of teamwork, I am going to address their suggestion.
The Guardians had a down season this year and finished 78-86, good enough for third in a poor American League Central. One area the Guardians need to improve upon is production from its outfield. Left fielder Steven Kwan has proven himself to be a very capable hitter with great bat to ball skills, but his production took a steep dive this season. Myles Straw and Will Brennan, who were the primary center and right fielders, offered little help offensively in 2023.
Hays certainly would be a great fit on the Guardians. He is a gold glove caliber defender who made highlight reel catches all season and is looking to beat out Kwan for this year's gold glove award in left field. Hays also has plenty of experience defensively in right field and an outfield of Kwan, Straw and Hays would be one of the top defensive outfields in baseball.
Offensively, Hays put up better numbers across the board than each of the Guardians primary outfielders. He would have been second in runs and hits behind Kwan, tied with Kwan for first in doubles, first by a lot in home runs and RBI's, and had the highest batting average and slugging percentage in the group.
Austin Hays is 27 years old and in the prime of his career. He made his first all-star team this season and has provided tremendous value to the Orioles both offensively and defensively. His defense has truly shined in the last two seasons since the left field wall was pushed back. The Orioles do have an abundance of outfield talent with Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander joining Hays as the regular starters, while Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser should get regular playing time next season.
But do the Guardians have enough to offer the O's to pry Hays away? No specific trade was suggested, but the article does suggest Shane Bieber be the center piece of any potential return from the Guardians.
Could the Orioles trade Austin Hays to Cleveland this offseason?
Bieber is a former Cy Young award winner who is 28 years old and still capable of being a very effective pitcher. The Orioles have shown an interest in bringing in veteran starters like they have done the last two seasons with Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson. Bieber would be an upgrade over both of those pitchers and could be the veteran leader of a young Orioles pitching staff but there are several challenges.
The first obstacle is that Bieber, who had a solid season with a 3.80 ERA, 110 ERA+ and a complete game, was not at the top of his game. His ERA and ERA+ were both the second worst of his career, behind only his rookie season, and his 7.5 K/9 was by far the lowest of his career in a category that has been in a steady free fall since his Cy Young season. The second obstacle is the injury to his throwing arm that caused Bieber to miss about two months this season.
He was able to come back and pitch in September but did not have great success. Finally, Bieber only has one more season under contract. If the Orioles could get him to agree to an extension at the time of a trade it could help since he is coming off a down year and could potentially agree to a lower contract.
With all things considered, I think Austin Hays is too much to ask for in a deal around Bieber. The O's were a very good team this season and most likely will not be looking to make any significant changes outside of the additional of Jackson Holliday. The Orioles pitching staff should have Cy Young contender Kyle Bradish, veteran ace John Means and budding star Grayson Rodriguez at the top of the rotation lowering the need to trade for an established ace.
The Guardians have a lot of young talent and could look to the Orioles top ranked farm system for help. Cleveland currently has the 15th ranked farm system with nobody inside the top 50 prospects. The Orioles could be willing to part ways with outfield prospects such as Dylan Beavers of Jud Fabian, who might not be major league ready but could be in a year, or a trade package centered around Connor Norby.
Norby is not an outfielder by trade, but he has gotten plenty of outfield experience in the last few seasons. He is clearly a major league ready hitter as he set the single season franchise record in both runs scored and hits for the National Champion Norfolk Tides. He absolutely could bolster the hitting in the Guardians outfield if given the opportunity.
Both Bieber and Hays are star players in the major leagues, so trading for either will require a lot of work from both general managers. However, neither player should be considered off limits this off-season.