Let’s take a look back at the Mike Clevinger trade and what it’s meant for the Guardians over the past two years.
Back in 2020, the then-Indians traded pitcher Mike Clevinger to the San Diego Padres, which was something of a huge move, and has proven to be a monumental move for Cleveland ever since.
Despite appearing to potentially fall out of favor a bit with the team over breaking COVID-19 protocols during the shortened 2020 season, it shouldn’t overshadow that Clevinger was still a great pitcher for Cleveland. Over his five years with the team, he posted a 3.20 ERA with 584 strikeouts in 523 1/3 innings for a 141 ERA+. The biggest issue was simply Clevinger’s durability, which was questionable enough for Cleveland to trade a potential ace rather than see if a contract extension was possible.
Clevinger did make 32 starts in 2018, but missed time in 2019 with a back injury, and the injuries have begun to pile up for him ever since. Still, Clevinger has great stuff and is finally ready to make his first start since undergoing the Tommy John surgery that kept him out all of 2021.
Naturally, Clevinger is making his first start back against his former team, so let’s revisit the trade that sent him to the West Coast and altered the course of the Guardians franchise.
By this point, the names sent to Cleveland aren’t just recognizable, but have become key contributors to the team and are expected to help form the core of a potential contender moving forward. For Clevinger and outfielder Greg Allen, the Padres dealt Cal Quantrill, Owen Miller, Josh Naylor, Austin Hedges, Gabriel Arias, and pitcher Joey Cantillo.
In other words, the Guardians got an absolute haul.
Never given much of a chance in San Diego, Cal Quantrill proved last season that he belonged in the rotation to the tune of a 2.89 ERA in 40 appearances (22 starts), and he’s off to another good start in 2022, holding a 3.27 ERA in four starts.
Both Miller and Naylor have come out of the gate strong this season as well. Miller is batting a ridiculous .377/.444/.660 with nine doubles already, while Naylor isn’t showing any effects from his leg injury last year, hitting .313/.340/.479 in his first 48 at-bats.
Hedges, though not without his offensive struggles, is a fantastic defensive catcher and pitch framer. Arias was dealt a tough blow this week after fracturing his hand, but he’s a tremendous defensive shortstop himself and could have the offensive makeup to be an everyday player in the majors.
Cantillo is the least recognized name for fans due in part to his injuries, but the 22-year-old lefty has incredible strikeout stuff – including a fastball that has touched the mid-90s and a particularly exciting changeup.
With the way guys like Miller and Naylor are playing, it’s hard to overstate just how transformative a trade this is becoming for the Guardians. As for the Padres, luck simply hasn’t been on their side here, but Clevinger’s return this season could begin to tip the scales into making this a far more balanced deal.
And no matter what happens with the rest of Clevinger’s career, Cleveland can walk away knowing it did the right thing from a baseball standpoint. Quantrill has shown flashes of having front-of-the-rotation stuff, and Miller and Naylor are seemingly clear-cut everyday contributors, while Hedges is at least holding down the fort while other catching prospects develop. If the same can eventually be said of Arias or Cantillo (or both), the Guardians will have been able to form a sizable chunk of their roster from just one trade.
If the Guardians make the playoffs in the next couple of years, there’s a good chance fans will still be able to thank Mike Clevinger for helping the team get there.