The Cleveland Indians found a star in Mike Clevinger and the right-hander will return in 2020 on a team-friendly salary as he enters his arbitration years.
It is no secret that professional baseball contracts aren’t always fair. That is why it is hard to blame players for taking monster deals that may derail a team’s future.
All about that money.
The Cleveland Indians are able to keep players like Francisco Lindor and Mike Clevinger around thanks to the way baseball contracts are structured. The problem comes when the arbitration years are over and the player hits the free market.
Lindor is in his second arbitration year and is projected to bring in about $16.7 million in 2020, according to MLB Trade Rumors. That makes it crucial for the team to try to secure some sort of long-term deal with him. That, or get the trade phones going.
The figure is much more manageable for Clevinger, who is projected to get about $4.5 million in his first arbitration year. That is a nice bump in pay for him and well below what he could probably get on the open market.
Injuries slowed Clevinger down in 2019 as he only pitched in 126 innings. Yet in that time he finished with a 2.71 ERA, 169 strikeouts, and a record (if that matters to you) of 13-4.
He has only logged 200 innings once, which came back in 2018 when he had exactly 200. That may be why his value remains around that $4.5 million figure.
The key for Clevinger is just to remain healthy. That is obviously an easy thing for me to say, but it remains true. He has the potential to be the ace of the staff. Shane Bieber filled that role in 2019 mainly because he was the one guy who did indeed stay healthy. He also dominated opposing hitters.
2020 will be an interesting year for Clevinger if both Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco return to the starting rotation. That potentially pushes Clev down to the No. 4 starter slot. If he continues to stay healthy and pitch like an ace it could lead to Kluber being traded during the season.
$4.5 million is nothing for a professional baseball team, even if ownership tries to say otherwise. With that money the Indians are getting a reliable starting pitcher who has worked his way up to being a rising star in the league. If he can stay healthy and make over 30 starts at his normal pace, he won’t be such a bargain in 2021.