According to Ken Rosenthal, the White Sox have agreed to a deal with right-handed pitcher Mike Clevinger, pending a physical. He will likely serve as the White Sox fifth starter, meaning Johnny Cueto will not return. With the addition, the current rotation now includes Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Michael Kopech, and Clevinger.
MLB insider Jim Bowden added that Clevinger’s deal with the White Sox is for one year for $12 million guaranteed. This is a great deal for Clevinger, who hopes to bump up his stock before hitting the open market again. It also allows him an opportunity to play for a contending team.
Clevinger was a once dominant starter in Cleveland. From 2017-20, he produced a 2.96 ERA over 489 1/3 innings. The former fourth-round draft pick also posted an excellent 19 K-BB%, placing him amongst the game’s best pitchers. In 2018 he pitched 200 innings posting a 3.02 ERA. He won 13 games and racked up 207 strikeouts. He was part of a nine-player trade in 2020 that sent him to San Diego.
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The soon to be 32 year old is only two years removed from Tommy John surgery. In his first season back, he posted a 4.33 ERA, 18.8 K%, 7.2 BB%, and 35.2% groundball rate in 114 1/3 innings. He also started a pair of playoff games, allowing seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.
A little rust was to be expected, but there were alarming numbers in his 2022 season. He ranked in the bottom half of the league in hard hit percentage, expected batting average, expected slugging percentage, barrel percentage, strikeout percentage, whiff rate, fastball velocity, and curveball spin.
Considering Kopech’s injury history, the White Sox could use another starter that eats innings. Unfortunately, Clevinger’s durability does not meet those criteria. He has made 30 starts in a season just once. That came during the aforementioned 2018 season.
There are also some health concerns to consider. Before the season, Clevinger bragged that he felt “healthier than I have in my entire career.” Shortly after, he sprained his knee, which forced him to miss the start of the season. Just three starts into the season, he was placed on the IL again due to a tricep strain.
Davis Martin may see some spot starts as a result. The 25-year-old caught many by surprise in 2022 by posting a 3.65 ERA in his first 61 2/3 innings. His ERA ballooned up to 4.83 after a nine-run debacle in his final start of the season.
The White Sox are banking on the fact that Clevinger will bounce back in his third year removed from Tommy John and that Ethan Katz can help revitalize his career. Katz worked his magic on Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodon, and Dylan Cease.
The talent is certainly talent in Clevinger’s right arm. It’s just a matter of how much of it is left. Rick Hahn has been targeting the man nicknamed “Sunshine” for a long time.
He attempted to acquire him in 2020, with Nick Madrigal and right-hander Dane Dunning reportedly being involved in the trade package. Cleveland wisely opted not to trade him to a division rival. They received Josh Naylor, Cal Quantrill, and Austin Hedges as part of that deal. Madrigal was eventually shipped across town in exchange for Craig Kimbrel, while Dunning was traded to the Rangers for Lance Lynn.
Clevinger has the upside to elevate the White Sox rotation. He has a higher ceiling than Johnny Cueto, but he is far from a sure thing. For $12 million, the White Sox may have been better off going with the known commodity in Cueto.