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Looking at the Indians Dealing of Mike Clevinger

“I am now 100% convinced Mike Clevinger doesn’t get traded” is what a co-worker of mine said last week. This statement came right before Clevinger had returned from his suspension for violating the league’s COVID-19 policy. For those who need to be refreshed, Clevinger and teammate Zach Plesac were both forced to miss 10 games for partying in Chicago a few Saturday nights ago. It turns out that the start would be nothing more than one final showcase for the Indians to use as trade bait. 

The Return Package

Cleveland landed themselves a nice little return from the San Diego Padres in this trade. The group of six is comprised of two groups: three guys that are major league ready and three guys that aren’t. Those six are Gabriel Arias, Joey Cantillo, Austin Hedges, Owen Miller, Josh Naylor, and Cal Quantrill. Gabriel Arias, the 20-year old shortstop from Venezuela, has a ton of potential but falls in the latter category. Padres skipper Jayce Tingler spoke highly of him back in March. 

“I feel confident he can play major league shortstop, major league second base defense right now. Which is, for a young kid, that’s quite a compliment, but also a credit to how he’s played the game.”

courtesy of San Diego Union Tribune

Naylor has already appeared in action for Cleveland and, per Buster Olney of ESPN, is going to start for the rest of the season.

Hedges and Quantrill can also contribute now. Hedges serves as a nice defensive catcher behind Roberto Perez while Quantrill adds depth to the bullpen. Between Cantillo and Miller, the Indians are hoping to develop them into major league talent as well. 

Why Trade Him?

Once Clevinger returned from suspension, trade rumors quieted just a bit. The thought was that he had repaired the locker room situation enough to the point where he could be on the roster without others wanting to leave. Maybe that was never really the case as it didn’t take long for the Indians’ front office to deal him post-suspension. 

The fan base, and all baseball fans for that matter, seem to be a bit split on this one. After all, the Indians were in first place at the time of the trade and gave up one of the best starting pitchers on the staff. Clevinger was electric in 2019, posting a 13-4 record and a 2.71 ERA. He also posted new career bests with his FIP and WHIP numbers at 2.49 and 1.056 respectively. He posted these numbers while battling through an upper back strain as well. His fastball was also the most efficient pitch of any Indians hurler in ‘19. Clevinger was dominant in his time in Cleveland, but he wasn’t without his flaws.

Of course, the flaw that probably sealed his fate in Cleveland was the night out in Chicago with Zach Plesac. Doing it is one thing, lying about it is another. After teammates threatened to not return if Clevinger and Plesac were allowed back, it became clear there were issues in the locker room. 

Pitching Plethora

The Indians also aren’t strangers to dealing their starting pitchers. They sent Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati midway through last season and parted with Corey Kluber this past offseason. Now with Clevinger out, that’s three ace-level guys that have been let go. This is because the Indians are spoiled with starting pitching depth. Plesac made a splash in his debut 2019 season and held the team’s lowest ERA and WHIP at the time of his suspension. Aaron Civale falls in the same boat, pitching well through his second season with a 3.72 ERA. Adam Plutko is a bit older and is serving a bullpen role this year, but he’s another guy who they can count on to start if need be. 23-year old Triston McKenzie has electrified in his first two big-league starts this season as well. Of course, 2019 All-Star MVP Shane Bieber continues to command the top of the staff. 

This organization has become known for developing it’s pitching at a high level. With more on the way in the deal for Clevinger, one can’t help but wonder what the Tribe will turn those guys into. 

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