TODAY: The Dodgers continue to be “very aggressive in pursuit of” Clevinger and Lindor, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets.
DEC. 19: Indians righty Mike Clevinger is drawing trade interest, per Robert Murray (Twitter link), although the team is said to have put a “crazy high” asking price on the soon-to-be 29-year-old. The Padres and Dodgers are among the clubs to have at least inquired on Clevinger, although there are quite likely others, given the sizable demand for starting pitching, the dwindling supply in free agency and Cleveland’s recent trade of Corey Kluber.
Interest in Clevinger isn’t much of a surprise. He enters his age-29 season with three years of club control remaining and a sterling 2.96 ERA with 10.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9 and a 40.6 percent ground-ball rate over the past three seasons (477 2/3 innings in total). Clevinger missed about two months with a teres major strain last year but otherwise hasn’t had a notable injury since undergoing Tommy John surgery as a minor leaguer back in 2012.
The Indians’ front office is widely believed to be working with a slimmer budget this season than in recent years, as ownership has opted to scale back spending after reaching record payroll levels in 2017-18. That payroll preference was perhaps the primary reason that Kluber was moved — as opposed to holding onto him in hopes of receiving a better offer this summer — and it’s part of the reason that the club will at least listen to proposals on players like Clevinger and superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor. But president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have repeatedly stated that they expect Lindor to be their Opening Day shortstop; Antonetti reiterated as much in an appearance on MLB Network this week (video link). And while there’s been no declaration on Clevinger’s status, he’s likely viewed as a similarly vital piece of the team’s core.
Clevinger is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $4.5MM in his first trip through the arbitration process this winter, so he’s nowhere near as pricey as Kluber ($17.5MM) or Lindor ($16.7MM projected salary). And, because he’s controlled for three more years and his salary isn’t yet prohibitive (relative to Paul Dolan’s apparent spending preferences), one can imagine that it would indeed take a staggering offer to pry Clevinger from the organization’s grasp.
Elite prospects like Gavin Lux and Dustin May have been frequently mentioned in trade rumblings surrounding the Dodgers and Lindor, and it stands to reason that the Indians would have a similarly high ask to consider parting ways with Clevinger. While he may not match Lindor in pure 2020 value, he’s about 25 percent as expensive and can be controlled a year longer than Lindor. Essentially, fans hoping to see their club secure a talent the caliber of Clevinger or Lindor should make a list of the young, controllable players with whom they’d be most reluctant to part … and then expect that at least one and more likely two of said group would be at center of such a deal (in addition to some lesser prospects).