Red Sox Rumors: Alex Verdugo potentially trade bait for Indians pitchers

Alex Verdugo of the Boston Red Sox reacts to hitting a solo home run. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Alex Verdugo of the Boston Red Sox reacts to hitting a solo home run. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

The Red Sox could try to trade for a pitcher from the Cleveland Indians.

The Boston Red Sox are starved for starting pitching and some appetizing options can be found in Cleveland.

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman speculates that the Cleveland Indians could shop Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac at this month’s rapidly approaching trade deadline. While there’s been no indication that a deal has been discussed, Heyman mentions Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo as a potential target for Cleveland in exchange for either of their pitchers.

While it would seem surprising for a contending Indians team to trade away pitchers from their talented rotation, recent events might force their hand. Clevinger and Plesac were optioned to the team’s alternate site after violating COVID-19 protocols by going out to dinner with friends in Chicago.

The Indians had Plesac drive back to Cleveland alone as soon as they found out the pitcher had left the hotel but Clevinger stayed silent about his involvement. He flew back home with the team, putting all of them at risk if he had been exposed to the virus. Naturally, that didn’t sit well with his teammates.

A crisis appears to have been averted since neither pitcher has tested positive for COVID-19 but considering the outbreaks that ravaged the Marlins and Cardinals clubhouses this season, breaking protocol was a foolish mistake. Both pitchers have apologized to their teammates but not all of them are ready to forgive this betrayal of trust and it’s unclear when either pitcher will be welcomed back to the major league club.

While both pitchers certainly come with considerable baggage, their fallout with the Indians organization might provide the Red Sox with a rare opportunity to buy low on a talented young pitcher. Neither has a history of being a problem child so the hope is that this was an isolated incident and they have learned their lesson. A fresh start with a new team could be what they need to get back on track. There is some concern with how they will be greeted on a new team but the talent outweighs the risks.

Clevinger has quietly been one of the best pitchers in the league over the last few years. He’s 42-22 with a 3.20 ERA and 10.1 K/9 in parts of five big league seasons.

A strained back muscle landed Clevinger on the injured list early last season but he proved himself healthy with a dominant second half and finished with a career-best 2.71 ERA in 126 innings. The right-hander entered this season with legitimate Cy Young buzz and was off to a strong start with a 3.24 ERA in three outings.

Plesac impressed as a rookie last season, going 8-6 with a 3.81 ERA in 21 starts. His 6.8 K/9 rate was underwhelming and he coughed up too many home runs (1.5 HR/9) but his strong minor league track record suggests neither concern fits his profile.

He’s proving that with an excellent start to this year. Plesac has only made three starts but he owns a 1.29 ERA and 10.3 K/9 while walking only two batters in 21 innings.

Clevinger is in his first year of arbitration-eligibility and has two more before hitting free agency. He has the higher ceiling as a potential front-line starter but the 25-year-old Plesac might be the more appealing trade target since he comes with five years of control. Plesac isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2023 and won’t reach free agency until 2026.

The Indians pitching staff owns a collective 2.68 ERA that ranks second in the majors. They can afford to give up one of these pitchers without crippling their rotation.

What they need is an outfielder who can add some punch to a lineup that ranks 29th in the majors with a .638 OPS. Verdugo’s .867 OPS would be a welcome addition to boost their offense and he’s under team control for 2025.

More from Red Sox Rumors

Verdugo would be tough to part with after only a brief stay in Boston. He was the centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade and his infectious energy has been one of the few bright spots of the season.

Still, pitching is the obvious area of need for the Red Sox. A right fielder is easier to find than a potential top of the rotation arm under control for cheap. Boston might even have a replacement in house with Jarren Duran making a strong impression at the alternate site in Pawtucket.

Many fans were disappointed that the Red Sox failed to pry a top pitching prospect away from the Dodgers in the Betts deal. If we essentially look at that trade as Betts and David Price for Clevinger or Plesac plus the two appealing prospects they received, perhaps the trade will ultimately be viewed more favorably.

As historically awful as the Red Sox pitching staff has been this year, a healthy Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi joined by either Clevinger or Plesac would make a formidable rotation in 2021.

Next. Should Red Sox trade JD Martinez?. dark

If the Indians are willing to deal either of these pitchers, the Red Sox need to make a call to work out a trade by the deadline. It’s too late to salvage this season but waiting until the offseason gives these pitchers an opportunity to redeem themselves with their teammates, potentially taking them off the trade market. Strike now while the rumor mill is hot!