Though his surname indicates he’s playing at the lower levels, Guardians closer Emmanual Clase is one of the best in the business when it comes to shutting the door on opponents. Even though he did blow 12 saves this past season, he’ll only be 26 in March and has led the American League the last two years by converting 44 and 42 of his opportunities. His 99 mph cutter and firm 91 mph slider are both nasty and he’s under club control for at least the next three seasons at bargain-basement rates with two more cheap option years beyond that.
That sounds like the kind of player a more budget-conscious team like Cleveland would want to keep around, but Jeff Passan reported that the Guardians are open to dealing Clase. He’s set to earn just $2.5 million in 2024, $4.5 million in 2025, and $6 million in 2026 with $10 club options for the two following seasons. The 2027 option has a $2 million buyout and the 2028 option has a $1 million buyout, then there are escalators for innings or appearances thresholds during the guaranteed period.
Even if Clase maxes those out with 300 innings or 300 appearances from 2002-26 (he’s at 152 and 145.1, respectively), the options will just be for just $12 million. The five-year, $20 million deal he signed to buy out two pre-arb years and three arb years is incredibly reasonable compared to other elite closers, especially considering Josh Hader is seeking the largest contract ever for a reliever in free agency.
That $4 million AAV will reset based on the remaining money owed if Clase is traded, but we’re still talking about a paltry $5.4 million or so. In addition to his base salary, I’m factoring in the buyout of the first option and the $2 million signing bonus that’s spread across the guaranteed years of the deal. Regardless of the exact numbers, the moral of the story is that we’re talking about an incredibly cheap contract.
Of course, that means the acquisition cost is going to be much higher than it would be for, say, former Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. The Cubs have reportedly been in talks with the Guardians for Bieber, who I’m not high on given the drop in his velocity and other results since MLB’s crackdown on sticky stuff. He’s also dealt with some injuries that may have impacted his performance. Throw in Clase, however, and I may have to change my tune.
There have been no connections between the Cubs and Clase other than fans seeing Passan’s note and getting frothed up, but such a deal would fit what Jed Hoyer is trying to do. The Cubs need bullpen help and they are also trying to improve for next season and well into the future. Most of the other trade speculation they’ve been involved in has focused on one-year deals that wouldn’t cost any top-10 prospects, though Clase won’t come at a low cost.
I’m not one for putting together hypothetical trade packages, but the Cubs do have a little redundancy in their top 10-12 guys and would certainly be able to make a deal work. Pete Crow-Armstrong and Cade Horton are as close to untouchable as you’ll find, then you figure Owen Caissie and Kevin Alcántara are just behind that tier. Matt Shaw‘s emergence could make AFL Offensive Player of the Year James Triantos a coveted target, then you look at Ben Brown, Jackson Ferris, and Michael Arias as pitchers other teams will ask about.
Again, I don’t know how realistic Clase’s availability truly is or what it would take to get him, I just know that he’d be a great fit with the Cubs. Just think about a bullpen with him closing games behind Adbert Alzolay and Robert Stephenson, among others. Sounds fun.