Analyzing 2024 projections for Cleveland Guardians trade targets

Dan Szymborski has released a sneak peek of ZiPS projections for the Cleveland Guardians in 2024. How could these Cubs trade targets fare next season?

Baltimore Orioles v Cleveland Guardians
Baltimore Orioles v Cleveland Guardians / Nic Antaya/GettyImages

Just recently, Fangraphs released ZiPS projections for the Cleveland Guardians' 2024 season. The Cubs are thought to be interested in the trade market, so Cleveland makes sense, given the number of players they could make available this winter. Specifically, we've heard the Cubs are connected to Shane Bieber and Josh Naylor, as the Cubs need help both in the starting rotation and in the lineup.

When Bieber is on his game, there's no denying he is one of the better pitchers in baseball. The three years that put him on the map were from 2020-22, where he won Cy Young in the COVID-shortened season with a 1.63 ERA and recorded a 2.88 in '22 over 200.0 innings pitched.

Naylor, a left-handed first base with power who can also take on catching duties, checks multiple boxes for the Cubs. He enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2023, where he slashed .308/.354/.489 with 17 HRs and 97 RBIs. His 128 wRC+ would have been second on the team behind only Cody Bellinger, who the Cubs desperately need to replace if they don't bring him back next season.

According to Fangraphs, Bieber is being given a 3.8 WAR here, which is 1.7 higher than what he recorded last year. Bieber missed a huge chunk of 2023 with right elbow inflammation, but adjusting his numbers for an entire season still puts him just below where he's projected for 2024. That makes sense, however, given how much trying to play through any injury can cause a drop in production.

More importantly, you can envision Bieber having a solid season in Chicago. With Dansby Swanson behind him at shortstop, who is fresh off back-to-back Gold Gloves, instead of Amed Rosario, who recorded -15 outs above average and -11 Runs Prevented, odds are all of his stats are going to be elevated if he pitches for the north side in 2024.

Looking over Naylor's projections, it's fair that Fangraphs might see a dip in overall production based on the model above. Last season, he recorded a 2.5 WAR (Fangraphs), but his xBA and xSLG were slightly lower than his actual number, but not drastically far off. In the end, Chicago actually pulling off a trade with Cleveland for both players will only come to fruition if Bellinger signs elsewhere this winter.

It remains to be seen if Cleveland seriously entertains Naylor's offers or just listens in with due diligence. He has two years left of team control at a reasonable AAV via arbitration, so don't expect Cleveland to be gung-ho to move him. Still, if anyone can assemble a package to entice Cleveland to move Naylor, It's the Cubs. Bieber, however, is entirely in play, and the Cubs are smart if they acquire his services for 2024.

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