The Milwaukee Brewers are currently in a pickle. Starting pitchers Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes are both entering their final season of team control and in the field Willy Adames is in the same situation.
This trio has helped the Brewers tremendously over the past few seasons, but unfortunately Milwaukee's small market nature has resulted in real questions of whether or not to trade them versus let them walk and enter free agency after the 2024 season. Complicating that picture even more is now the fact that Brandon Woodruff is highly unlikely to throw next year after undergoing shoulder surgery.
There are several paths that GM Matt Arnold could take this winter and one of them is going all-in with his current players in order to give them one more shot at a World Series while in a Brewers uniform. This could look like holding onto both Corbin Burnes and Willy Adames as well as picking up Mark Canha's $11.5MM option.
Another move that could be made would be to trade for a starting pitcher in order to "replace" Brandon Woodruff. Conveniently one option is available that would not cost the Brewers a substantial amount of player/prospect capital.
Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Shane Bieber is one low-cost trade target for the Milwaukee Brewers to consider.
Shane Bieber, who won the 2020 Cy Young award, is also entering his final year of arbitration in which MLB Trade Rumors has his projected 2024 salary at $12.2MM. Similar to Milwaukee, the long term outlook of him staying in a smaller market is not good. Because of this the Guardians may be willing to trade him this off-season.
One thing working in the Brewers favor in potential negotiations is the fact that Shane Bieber is coming off an injury riddled season in which he made just 21 starts. Trade rumors regarding him were swirling during the summer months, but then stopped once he landed on the injured list. To go along with all of this his ERA inflated to 3.80 and his ability to strike batters out was diminished.
Taking a look back, from 2019-2022 Shane Bieber had a 2.91 ERA with four complete games and two shutouts. It's worth nothing that he only made 16 starts in 2021, which makes injuries a real concern with him going forward. However with one year of team control left, some injury risk, and having a down 2023 season his trade value is currently at it's lowest.
All of this sets the Brewers up nicely to swoop in, make a trade, and get their "replacement" for Brandon Woodruff. Cleveland is in need of position players, so parting ways with a young controllable player who is either in the big leagues or close to ready may get a deal done.
It will be interesting to see if Milwaukee explores this path or not. Acquiring Shane Bieber would give them a top pitching trio in the league yet again and likely would provide them with their best opportunity to repeat as division champs and to take another stab in the playoffs.