CLEVELAND — Over the last decade, the Cleveland Guardians have been among the best in baseball at developing starting pitching, and that pipeline has allowed them to be more open to trading such players of they feel it can improve the team. Even with the team in playoff contention once again, it's quite possible at least one rotation piece could be on the move.
Just days ago, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported the Guards were "willing" to trade right-handers Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale and possibly listen to offers for ace Shane Bieber. Now, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman says one team in particular, the Philadelphia Phillies, has emerged as a top contender for Plesac.
Heyman writes Philadelphia has Plesac "on [its] radar" as it looks to add a starter in its effort to nab one of the National League's three wild-card spots. The team is also looking for outfield help and possibly a reliever, but could be dealing with competition for Plesac's services should they seek a deal before MLB's Aug. 2 trade deadline.
Now in his fourth season with Cleveland, the 27-year-old Plesac sports a respectable 4.09 ERA in 2022, but his record sits at just 2-8 partly due to a lack of run support. He is 24-22 with a 3.97 ERA across 72 big league starts and even boasted a 2.28 ERA back in 2020, although he and then-teammate Mike Clevinger did make headlines that August when they broke COVID-19 protocols in Chicago and were briefly sent to the minor leagues as punishment.
Clevinger was traded to San Diego shortly thereafter, one of several moves the Indians/Guardians have made involving rotation stalwarts in recent years. Separate deals involving Clevinger, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco have netted Cleveland All-Stars Emmanuel Clase and Andrés Giménez as well as current contributors Josh Naylor, Cal Quantrill, Franmil Reyes, and Amed Rosario, among others.
Following the firing of manager Joe Girardi in early June, the Phillies have climbed back into contention under interim skipper Rob Thomson and currently hold the last NL wild-card position thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker with the St. Louis Cardinals. The starting staff is solid behind former All-Stars Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, but the team could use some depth in the wake of Zach Eflin's knee injury, although club President Dave Dombrowski has indicated he will steer away from "premium" starters.
The MLB trade deadline comes Tuesday at 6 p.m. Besides Plesac, Civale's current status on the injured list could complicate his trade status, while Passan says the return for Bieber would have to be "exorbitant" for a deal to take place.
The Guardians entered Friday two games behind the Minnesota Twins for first place in the AL Central Division and 2 1/2 games out of the final wild-card slot.