As the MLB offseason rumor mill keeps turning, another big name has emerged as a potential trade candidate for the Philadelphia Phillies. In a surprising turn of events, the Cleveland Guardians are reportedly open to trading their closer, Emmanuel Clase.
According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, who reported the news on Friday, Clase is officially on the trade market.
The Phillies immediately come to mind as a possible trade partner for the Guardians. It's no secret that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and his general manager Sam Fuld are looking for bullpen upgrades after 2023's horrific ending.
MLB analyst thinks the Phillies will jump at the chance to get Clase
One MLB analyst agrees that Philadelphia will be interested in the two-time All-Star closer.
In a segment on MLB Network Radio on Friday, host Mike Ferrin suggested that Clase would be attractive on the trade market for a team like Philadelphia, who might not want to pay a nine-figure salary to the top free agent closer on the market in Josh Hader.
Former GM Jim Duquette of MLB Network agreed with Ferrin's assessment.
"It does have their [Philadelphia's] name written all over it, right?" Duquette said. "Of the teams that need bullpen help ... I could see Philly jumping in on this."
What would it take to trade for Clase?
Clase is going to be a very popular trade target for any and every team looking for a closer. He's under team control for another five seasons at an extremely reasonable salary. He'll make $2.5 million in 2024, $4.5 million in 2025, and $6 million in 2026 with $10 million team options for 2027 and 2028.
That's an investment of $33 million over the next five seasons for the 25-year-old who has led the majors in saves in each of the last two seasons, with 42 in 2022 and 44 this year.
His 2023 performance may temper the trade offers, if only slightly. He blew 12 saves in 2023, although he did have the most save opportunities by far with 56. Still, a 78.6 percent save percentage is less than ideal. In 72 2/3 innings, the big righty had a career-high 3.22 ERA, and his strikeout rate dropped to 21.2 percent from 28.4 percent in 2022.
If you look a little deeper, his FIP looked good, at 2.95 but he ran high a career-high BABIP at .295, which could be attributed to his ground ball rate dropping from 63.9 percent to 55.0 percent.
Duquette suggests a young starting pitcher might help to pry Clase away from Cleveland: "Is there a young starting pitcher they [the Phillies] might be willing to move for a closer like Clase?"
Offering a young pitcher, say Cristopher Sánchez or Mick Abel, would undoubtedly help the Phillies' case. If there's something the Guardians are good at, however, it's developing young pitching talent. They just had a season that saw Logan Allen, Tanner Bibee, and Gavin Williams burst onto the scene. Not to mention, they still have Triston McKenzie, who was sidelined for much of the year.
While the Guardians wouldn't pass up a chance to acquire another young, controllable arm, they might be more interested in a bat. They finished 2023 tied for the sixth-lowest team wRC+, at 92, and had the second-worst slugging percentage with .381. A potent bat, like Nick Castellanos', would help their offense right now, but the frugal front office would likely scoff at his $20 million annual salary.
That takes us to younger, cheaper options. Now you're looking at Brandon Marsh or Johan Rojas for position players with major league experience. The Guardians might be more enticed by prospects like outfielder Justin Crawford or third baseman Aidan Miller.
If the Phillies end up making a deal for Clase, adding his 99 mph cutter and 91 mph slider to the relief corps will immediately turn the bullpen into a World Series-caliber unit.