The Baltimore Orioles have entered the winter meetings with one primary need; pitching. As it stands right now, the Orioles have a solid starting rotation and a good bullpen but you can never have too much pitching. The rotation will likely feature Kyle Bradish, John Means, Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer with Cole Irvin, DL Hall and Tyler Wells battling for the final spot. The biggest question mark is the closer role. The O's will be without AL Reliever of the Year Felix Bautista after he had Tommy John surgery, and several players were utilized to fill his giant shoes.
When Bautista went down, Yennier Cano seemed to be the incumbent due to his breakout success as the setup man, but Cano was inconsistent as a closer. Converted starters Wells and Hall both had success in the closer role but are determined to make it in the bigs as starting pitchers. Danny Coulombe and Cionel Perez have been used to close games but are more valuable in high leverage situations earlier in games.
The Cleveland Guardians have been looking to make some big moves this offseason, and have been shopping Shane Bieber around for some time now. Recently they have announced that they are also willing to listen to offers for two time all-star and 2022 AL Reliever of the Year Emmanuel Clase. With the amount of talent that the O's have on the 40 man roster and the top ranked farm system, they certainly have the pieces to pull off a trade for Clase.
Could the Orioles utilize their trade chips to pry Emmanuel Clase from the Guardians?
Being able to replace Bautista with a guy like Clase would be a huge boost for the Orioles. He might not have the strikeout numbers that Bautista has, but Clase has led baseball in saves in each of the last two seasons. On top of the immediate value that he would bring to Baltimore this season, Clase is under contract through 2026 with team options for 2027 and 2028. Bautista will be back in 2025 and could pair up with Clase to form a dominant duo at the back end of the bullpen.
Bieber is a guy who seems to fit right into the Orioles wheelhouse. He's a veteran starter who has had success and can eat up innings. He would be able to fill the role that Kyle Gibson took on this season and Jordan Lyles the season before. Bieber hasn't been able to regain the Cy Young form he had in 2020 but he is still a good pitcher that can solidify the back end of the rotation.
He has reached the 200 innings plateau twice in his career, something that no current Orioles starter has been able to accomplish. Bieber is still just 28 years old and should still have good years in front of him. He is entering the final year of his contract which will only motivate him to play better.
The cost of adding these two pitchers is going to be steep. The Guardians lacked outfield production in 2023 and will be looking to improve that. Anthony Santander is a name that has been floated around. It would be a homecoming of sorts since Santander was originally signed by Cleveland as a 16 year old back in 2011.
He was picked up by Baltimore in the Rule 5 draft in 2016 and has been a mainstay in the Orioles outfield for several years now, but with several top prospects breaking through this season and Santander's contract ending after 2024, the O's would probably consider moving on from him if the price was right.
Obviously, Santander alone would not be enough to bring in Clase and Bieber. Mike Elias recently commented about being able to use the best farm system to outbid anyone and being prepared to trade one of the team's top prospects. The O's could package Connor Norby, Cade Povich and Hudson Haskin along with Santander to make the trade work.
Norby is major league ready but is blocked by a number of players on the Orioles. He would be able to make an immediate impact as a utility player on the Guardians, adding depth to their infield and offensive production in the outfield. Povich is the Orioles second best pitching prospect and would have a chance to make the Guardians opening day rotation thanks to his big strikeout numbers. Haskin is another talented prospect who has a mountain to climb to get to Baltimore but adds some depth to a very shallow outfield in Cleveland.
The Orioles would be able to walk away from this trade addressing their needs in the starting rotation and the bullpen and more than equipped to handle losing the players mentioned. This could be a big win for both teams.