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Will the Cleveland Indians actually banish Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac after breaking protocol, disappointing teammates, and causing a clear division in the clubhouse?
It is one the most pressing questions leading into the Aug. 31 MLB Trade Deadline. As it stands the Tribe record sits at 17-12, tied for second in the AL Central with the Chicago White Sox, and only 2.5 out of first place.
The latest is that the clubhouse may be ready to forgive and forget, which is what is probably best if the team wants to contend for a World Series, but for this exercise, let’s pretend that the flip side rumors, which are more fun, are true and that the team is listening to offers on Clevinger, but will keep Plesac.
Move Clevinger to the Braves, Now.
Mike Clevinger: The 6-foot-4 pitcher will close this season at the tail end of his age-29 season. It is also just the first year arbitration for him, meaning that any team that trades for him will have two seasons of arbitration (cost control) pushing him to age-32 before there is any actual long term commitment. That alone is a value. From there, he has been nothing short of an ace since emerging in 2017. His 42-22 record comes with a 3.20 ERA, and a cumulative 141 ERA+ over 517 innings. That is a remarkably low number of innings on an arm. Clevinger should be able to maintain himself into his mid- to late-30s.
That means the Indians would look to get a haul or talent for him. And Cleveland would.
Here is answer to the “but why would they trade him?”
First, the outfield absolutely stinks. Next, it is likely the last year it has Francisco Lindor in the lineup. Third, in keeping Plesac and with the promotion of Triston McKenzie the rotation of Shane Bieber (25), Aaron Civale (25), Carlos Carrasco (32), Plesac (25), and McKenzie (22) is still good enough to win now and young enough to absorb the blow into the future.
But, back to the outfield. The Indians have used Jordan Luplow (139/262/250) in 13 games; Oscar Mercado (111/167/111) in 17; Domingo Santana (169/308/308) in 22; Bradley Zimmer (162/360/243) in 20; Tyler Naquin (278/297/419) in 11, and Greg Allen (167/211/333) in 12.
Yes, Minnesota has the specs to get this deal done, but there is no way that the Indians would trade him within the division. That means the spot that would make the most sense is Atlanta. The Braves need a starting pitcher and it has a deep farm system — at the right spots — which can send help to Cleveland immediately.
With the value on the contract, the Indians could command top talent and getting Drew Waters from the Braves would be an immediate plug in to the outfield for Cleveland. He is the No. 2 prospect in the Atlanta system and his hit nearly .300 across three minor league seasons with a .354 on-base and .461 slugging. He is ready. The Braves outfield is blocking him and the team is in a win-now mode. With the loss Lindor on the horizon, and the Braves also having Dansby Swanson on the roster, an ask of Braden Shewmake – a near-ready shortstop – could be on the shopping list with a throw in, like catcher Alex Jackson also being involved. That would be two Top 10 prospects from the system and a player that is very much post-hype, but still only 24 in Jackson.
Bonus play: Trade Aaron Bracho (INF) and Luis Oviedo (RHP) or Logan Allen (LHP) to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Greg Polanco to round out the roster transition and make a run.