With the Chicago Cubs interested in everybody under the sun that's available, more is coming to light regarding the team's potential backup plans if they miss on Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The team's interest in Tyler Glasnow from the Tampa Bay Rays is no secret. Still, the Cubs trading for Shane Bieber and Emmanuel Clase from the Cleveland Guardians is an even more significant blockbuster move.
Over at The Athletic (subscription required), Sahadev Sharma's latest Cubs mailbag links the two teams via trade from a speculative mutual interest point. We know the team wants to add a starter or two but desperately needs bullpen help. Landing Bieber and Clase scratches two of those needs off the list with one move, and though the prospect currency will be much higher than Glasnow's, it certainly packs a bigger punch for the Cubs in 2024.
Sharma explains that landing Ohtani or Yamamoto doesn't mean the team will stop there. Expect a move of this caliber to get done one way or another. The Cubs' "very aggressive" approach this winter is too much to think they won't do something of the blockbuster caliber. My prediction is if they miss on Ohtani, they go all in on Yamamoto and pull off a trade that will include a starter and a hitter. Not that the team shouldn't go after Bieber/Clase together, but missing on Ohtani means you desperately need another bat in the lineup.
Still, the point is that the Cubs are everywhere this winter, and it seems inevitable the team will be better on paper in 2024 than in 2024, even if they miss on the top two free agents this winter. The want to succeed by Jed Hoyer is far too great to sit back and expect nothing to happen.
Bieber is a free agent after this upcoming season while Clase is under team control until 2029, with club options for 2027 and 2028. I don't see a relatively cost-effective elite reliever available via trade. He would only cost the Cubs 13.0M over the next three seasons. The Bieber smoke simply comes from the Guardians never extending big-time players (see Francisco Lindor, for example). As much as Bieber himself can be had this winter, it wouldn't be advisable for Cleveland to move their stud closer unless they were getting ready for a complete rebuild.