First of all, let’s stop trying to declare winners and losers in trades before players even get texts finding out what flight their on to meet their new team in whatever city they’re in.

Like any trades that include prospects, you’re not going to be able to grade the trade accurately until you see what those prospects do or don’t do.

Furthermore, not every trade needs to have a winner or loser. Ideally, both teams win. A trade was worked out in the first place because teams matched up in both values and need. If one team felt like it was losing the trade, a trade wouldn’t be made. Both teams send the paperwork to the league office because they feel like their team got what it valued and needed. (Of course some teams feel like they got the better end of the deal, but no team ever signs the paperwork already feeling like it lost.)

For the third time in the last 13 months, Cleveland has traded another frontline starting pitcher. 

Mike Clevinger joins Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer as ex-Tribe pitchers the organization has attempted to use to cover up their offensive shortcomings and payroll. Cleveland received OF/1B Josh Naylor, RHP Cal Quantrill, C Austin Hedges, SS Gabriel Arias, SS/2B Owen Miller and LHP Joey Cantillo. Cleveland also gave San Diego OF Greg Allen and a player to be named later (reportedly RHP Matt Waldron). 

Trevor Bauer was less than 1.5 seasons from being a FA and he made it clear he had no intention of signing a long term deal with anyone, let alone Cleveland.

Bauer brought in a much-needed force in Franmil Reyes into the lineup along with the rental of Yasiel Puig last year. Cleveland also added LHPs Logan Allen and Scott Moss who have or will factor into the team’s pitching plans. Bat-first, short utility infielder Victor Nova was also part of the trade.

In the offseason, the Corey Kluber trade was more about Cleveland getting out before Kluber’s cost outweighed his contributions to the team than they did in a fluke-injury filled 2019. They got high-end reliever Emmanuel Clase, filling a big role the team needed (though he cannot fill that role in 2020 due to a PED suspension). Delino DeShields also balanced the salary out and gave Cleveland a pinch-runner and defensive replacement who has been thrown into more playing time than might be beneficial due to others’ struggles.

The Clevinger to the Padres deal might represent a combination of the two. 

Clevinger is 29, soon to be 30, and is heading to his second arbitration year this winter and has had some fluky injuries. He had a teres major strain last year in his back shoulder and a torn meniscus this spring. His delivery is somewhat complicated, though he’s a fantastic athlete who can repeat it. But there’s still quite a bit of effort.

The age, injury, future cost and some signs of his stuff taking a dip so far in 2020 (in a very admittedly small sample size). His velocity is still good, but not as good as 2019 and the rest of it has followed that way.

Clevinger’s 2019 Statcast data
Clevinger’s 2020 Statcast data

Despite his additional control than Bauer, and being younger than Kluber, Cleveland did not, or maybe opted not, to get more immediate offensive help. 

When you haven’t won a World Series in 70 years and you have a World Series caliber pitching staff and your superstar shortstop might be playing somewhere else in 2021, or at least playing out his final year in your home colors, you want that team to make a trade that ends that drought while all of that is currently in their favor.

Is Cleveland a better baseball team after the Clevinger deal? 

In 2020, it’s questionable. They are probably marginally better in 2020 than they were before.

They are marginally better if you believe each of the following things:

  • Zach Plesac will step into Clevinger’s spot with his teammates moved on from his protocol-breaking night out and unnecessary Instagram video and pitch better than Clevinger, which he had done before his timeout. 

Plesac’s 2020 Statcast data
  • Triston McKenzie will continue to fill the back end of the rotation admirably the rest of 2020, instead of having both Plesac and Clevinger
  • Cal Quantrill as a reliever in 2020 represents an upgrade by being available for and having success in high leverage spots, joining James Karinchak, Phil Maton and Nick Wittgren instead of relying on rookie Cam Hill for big spots and non-roster invitee, Dominic Leone
  • Austin Hedges, while not a great hitter, represents an upgrade over Beau Taylor, and even Sandy Leon as a backup. He does have a lot of power but really only hits pitches when they’re left over the happy zone of the plate where his swing plane can run into its path and destroy it. Otherwise, it’s more swings and misses, but defensively he’s as elite as Roberto Perez.

  • Josh Naylor represents an upgrade over Domingo Santana
    • Santana wasn’t great in his 33 game stint as a member of the Tribe and Naylor, as unproven as he is, isn’t any lesser of a defender than Santana. That much we know. His 89 wRC+ last season would be an upgrade over Santana this year by default.

If you believe all of that, and I mean all of that, then Cleveland is better after the Mike Clevinger trade than before it, running out Santana, Jordan Luplow in left against right-handers and having a bullpen that has been good, but isn’t deep on experience (not that Quantrill has tons, but he’s an upgrade over some options Cleveland had stuff-wise).

Naylor can hit for power and doesn’t strike out much, but he hasn’t tapped into all of his power at the MLB level yet. 

It will be a question of if he can in 2020 to be enough of an upgrade now, or if it takes more time and his bat impacts the future more.

Quantrill should help this year regardless, that should be an easy addition no matter what.

As bad as Hedges is offensively, he has well above-average power and is more likely to occasionally run into a home run than Leon or Taylor, and takes a walk, and is better defensively than both.

Of course, the rest of this trade banks on three futures. (Which we will have more on this weekend with three full scouting profiles on for Insiders.)

Gabriel Arias has the loud and physical tools to be a star, but has a hard time with plate discipline and pitch recognition thus far in his young career.

Joey Cantillo is a FB/CH LHP that has a promising curveball and a pitcher with a profile Cleveland should be able to squeeze all the juice from.

Owen Miller might hit enough to be an average regular at second base and get more from the sum of his parts than the strength of one special tool.

This is yet another trade that can’t be decided by 2020 results. 

The rotation has enough talent to hold serve to its current performance, given that Clevinger wasn’t great in 2020 as it was in his few starts. Cleveland marginally upgraded in left, at catcher, and in the bullpen. Is that enough to make them good enough to win it all in 2020? We’ll find out. Teams who spend like Cleveland spends have to maximize the margins of its roster. The Tribe did that with this trade for 2020, with an eye to the future as well. But it’s hard to say if that’s going to be enough.

Photo: USA Today

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.