Should the Red Sox make overtures on Cleveland’s Mike Clevenger?
The Boston Red Sox need pitching and especially rotation arms. Nick Pivetta was a comfortable lower rotation addition who may be of some value – he’ll get his shot this season. Cleveland right-hander Mike Clevinger may also be available, according to several sources. Why?
Clevinger and fellow right-hander Zach Plesac violated COVID-19 protocols and the team acted swiftly demoting both to the alternate training site. Clevinger was 1-1 at the time of his demotion with a 3.24 ERA somewhat questionable with a 6.26 FIP.
Clevinger has been solid for the Cleveland rotation since he was given a regular turn in 2017 with 83 starts in that time frame. The 29-year-old has tossed 464.1 innings in that stretch with a 2.97 ERA. Clevinger remains under control through 2022 with arbitration continuing the next two seasons.
Clevinger is a four-pitch pitcher with a fastball, slider, curve, and change. His fastball registers at a career 94.2 mph. Despite a career 39.9 GB%, Clevinger has historically been able to keep the ball in the park, especially in the homer fest of 2019 with a 0.7 HR/9. Clevinger also has a career 12.6 SwStr% and a 3.5 BB/9.
What would you have to give?
That is not difficult with the Indians outfield currently ranked dead last in the American League with a -0.8 fWAR. Defensively they have a 1.3 UZR/150 so the Indians – certainly a contender – need some picket duty that can dish out punishment. The Red Sox have two outfielders who could meet the needs of Terry Francona and the Indians – Andrew Benintendi and Alex Verdugo.
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In this age of baseball, service time becomes an important number with Benintendi in arbitration and free agency after the 2022 season. Verdugo has a further path and will not be a free agent until after the 2024 season. Years and salary potential should be factored in especially with the Indians who have cut payroll. If Verdugo is the choice I cannot see any sweetener added in, but with Benintendi?
If the Indians wanted Benintendi the Red Sox would possibly be forced to include a prospect – probably a pitcher – to finalize the deal. With a system that is rather barren would they risk Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, or recently acquired Connor Seabold? Would Boston give up and Cleveland accept a Josh Taylor or Darwinzon Hernandez?
Of course, the Red Sox may just wish to pass on Clevinger, who is probably at a low point as far as value. But Clevinger certainly has shown enough to be considered a mid-rotation to number two for a rotation. A risk worth exploring which I am sure Chaim Bloom and other baseball executives are doing.
My Verdict: This is the type of deal in which I would have no difficulty in trading off Benintendi, who appears to need a change of scenery, but prospects? Cleveland does have some young pitchers in Aaron Civale, Triston McKenzie, and Plesac. If the Red Sox could negotiate a positional prospect – someone who may be ranked in the second tier – I would not hesitate. Verdugo, even straight up, I would pass on.