I understand why the Cleveland Indians are considering a trade of star shortstop Francisco Lindor.
It’s unpleasant to consider, sure, but with two years remaining on his current deal and a lucrative extension seemingly out of the cards, it makes sense for Cleveland to get the most value for him while it can.
Mike Clevinger, though? Shopping him is something I wouldn’t even remotely get.
Per the latest rumors, the Los Angeles Dodgers seem to believe that’s exactly what the Tribe is doing. Why else would L.A. reportedly be hounding the Indians with hopes of landing both Lindor and Clevinger this offseason?
I’d like to think any requests to add Clevinger to the pot have been laughed off by the Indians, mostly because there are so many reasons why trading him would be absolutely absurd.
To be fair, there’s always a chance this is just an instance of the Dodgers going for broke, or some veiled attempt to sweeten the pot in ongoing trade talks. Perhaps they’re telling Cleveland, in its pursuit of star prospect Gavin Lux, that the only way he could be included in a deal is if Clevinger is, too.
Outside of that, there’s literally no other reason for the Tribe to even hint the hard-throwing righty is available.
We can start with the obvious fact that Clevinger is a clear top-of-the-rotation talent who’s seen his ERA drop every single season since his 2016 rookie campaign, finishing last year with a career best 2.71. His 2019 WHIP, strikeout percentage and walk percentage were all the best he's ever logged, and his average four-seamer velocity has never been higher than it was last season (95.4 MPH).
Consider this exhibit A when laying out evidence of why the Indians shouldn’t be tossing his name into trade talks.
It’s also worth noting that Cleveland no longer has the rotation depth it once boasted, which should give the team pause when it comes to moving a pitcher of Clevinger’s caliber.
Back in July, sure, the Indians had proven they could withstand losing a member of their starting rotation if it meant improving other areas of the roster. Now, with both Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber out of the picture, the situation is significantly different.
Behind Clevinger is another sure thing in Shane Bieber. Outside of these two, the Indians have Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac and potentially Adam Plutko. Each has given Cleveland quality innings, yet each also comes with question marks.
Considering Carrasco’s health status, it seems almost unfair to saddle him with any significant expectations in 2020.
Civale was a bright spot down the stretch for Cleveland last season. However, his final four starts saw him allow significant increases in slugging percentage and OPS from opposing hitters.
Plesac has shown flashes of potential, yet was also uneven during the last two months of the season, failing to record six innings pitched in all but one of his final eight starts.
Though proving to be a reliable fifth starter for the Indians, Plutko ended 2019 on a sour note, logging a 6.49 ERA for the month of September.
The Indians have a solid rotation. However, it’s not nearly good enough to put them in a place where they can comfortably shop their ace.
Making this whole situation more confusing is the fact Clevinger doesn’t even slightly impact the team financially.
He’s cost the front office under $600K in each of the past three seasons, and while his arbitration eligibility ensures he’ll be getting a raise this winter, the projected $4.5 million he’s due to make is barely a drop in the bucket.
Toss in the fact Clevinger is under team control until 2023, and you come up with yet another reason why the idea of trading him is pure lunacy.
Maybe this is a one-sided ordeal. Perhaps the Dodgers are merely leaking their interest in him with the hopes Cleveland is just selling parts this offseason.
It’s honestly the only realistic situation I can think of. It’s the only way I could explain why a top-of-the-rotation starter who costs his team alarmingly little is finding his name in the rumor mill.
With that in mind, you’d hope we can confidently expect to see Clevinger taking the mound for the Indians on Opening Day next year. Should he find himself in another uniform come that time, well, I just laid out all the reasons why that scenario would confuse me beyond belief.