If the Cleveland Indians told you someone was trying to trade for Mike Clevinger last year at this time, you would probably call them liars. The then 24-year-old, who the Indians acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for Vinnie Pestano, was only two years removed from Tommy John surgery and coming off of a season where he struggled to find the strike zone in High-A, walking 11 percent of the batters he faced.
One year later, however, and he was apparently drawing some interest from other teams looking for starting pitchers--at least according to Terry Pluto. In an interview with Pluto for the Plains Dealer, Indians manager Terry Francona talked interest in Tribe pitching. Clevinger’s name came up, although it is not clear if that was Pluto throwing the quote in there, or something that Tito himself said:
The Indians had several offers for Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Salazar. Prospect Mike Clevinger was also in demand as other teams asked about him.
It should be mentioned that every team was probably "asking" about almost every other team’s prospects if they were doing their homework, but Mike Clevinger’s name being singled out is interesting. It means he is not just something for us to be excited about, other general managers are recognizing his potential as well.
Clevinger started (and finished) 2015 playing for the Double-A Akron RubberDucks, where he threw 158.0 innings while striking out 22.7 percent of the batters he faced and carrying a 2.73 earned run average. That was his first season throwing over 100.0 innings in a full season, which shows how well he has recovered from Tommy John surgery. He also got his walk rate down to 6.3 percent, another career best for a full season’s worth of work.
Minor League Ball’s John Sickels recognized Clevinger’s tremendous season and named him the Indians No. 3 overall prospect for 2016, citing his improved control and solid stuff. Like most estimates, Sickels has him potentially making the rotation in 2016.
Other teams are clearly recognizing this potential as well if they were asking about him in trades. Clevinger has four solid pitches--a mid-90s fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup--and a 6'4" frame that evaluators look for it right-handed pitchers. Being that Clevinger is so close to be Major League-ready (and already on the Indians 40-man roster) he could have been a good trade piece for just about any team. Someone like the San Francisco Giants, who the Indians talked to, could have used him for the next few years. Even a team like the Cincinatti Reds could have been interested in having Clevinger as part of their rotation when they head into their deep rebuild.
As tempting as it would be to hold onto Clevinger, he is the perfect type of player for the Indians to trade if the right move comes along. With how crazy the starting pitcher market is right now, it is not out of the question to think they could at least get something to help the Major League club immediately for several years of Clevinger. And if it means holding onto Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and the rest of the starting rotation it would be difficult to say no.