Mike Clevinger back in White Sox’s sights, albeit lower ones

Two seasons in a row, the White Sox have won first prize with their fifth-starter acquisitions. In 2021, they brought back Carlos Rodón for $3 million after non-tendering him earlier in the offseason, and Rodón finished fifth in the AL Cy Young voting. A year later, Johnny Cueto joined the team in mid-May and nearly qualified for the ERA title despite that missing month and a half.

The Sox didn’t exactly shoot 100 percent, because Vince Velasquez was the White Sox’s first attempt at back-end adequacy in 2022. Still, even if you count Velasquez’s salary toward the quest, they’ve gotten 9 bWAR of pitching for about $9 million over the last two seasons. That kind of return rate would set off Ponzi alerts if the Sox tried guaranteeing it.

That said, they’ll have to try, and Ken Rosenthal and James Fegan say the White Sox are looking at Mike Clevinger this time around.

There’s reason to buy into this, because the White Sox had an interest in Clevinger during the 2020 season, according to Rosenthal during that time. Clevinger ended up going to San Diego in a nine-player deal, and the Sox ended up trading for the other pitcher they sought during that window:

Probably the only way for the White Sox to get Clevinger from an AL Central rival was to overpay, but one Sox official said the Indians used the Sox as a stalking horse, never intending to trade him within the division. Another Sox official took a more measured view, saying the outcome was what he anticipated from the start, knowing the Indians probably did not want to spend the next two-plus seasons facing Clevinger in the AL Central. The White Sox, unwilling to make a deal they perceived as shortsighted, also balked at the Rangers’ price for [Lance] Lynn, which various clubs said included at least one elite young player.

(Rosenthal went on to say that other teams thought the White Sox wanted to trade Michael Kopech to Cleveland, as Kopech had opted out of the season. The White Sox denied it then, but it doesn’t look so outrageous now.)

Anyway, Clevinger’s San Diego career was a bust. Arm problems limited his availability down the stretch of the 2020 season, after which he had his second Tommy John surgery, which cost him all of 2021. He then returned with a pedestrian 2022, posting a 4.33 ERA with just 91 strikeouts over 114⅓ innings. The 18.8 percent strikeout rate was a dramatic drop from his peak of 33.9 percent in 2019.

The first place to look is fastball velocity, which rose and fall with his general fortunes:

  • 2017: 92.6
  • 2018: 93.8
  • 2019: 95.5
  • 2020: 95.2
  • 2021: n/a
  • 2022: 93.5

But his slider also took a major hit in effectiveness, per Statcast’s run values:

  • 2017: 11
  • 2018: 14
  • 2019: 11
  • 2020: 4
  • 2022: -6

He made some attempts to compensate over the course of the 2022 season, with a cutter gaining some prominence in the first half, then a sinker emerging in the second half. Curiously, the pitch identification systems disagree over the second pitch, at least after the All-Star break. Statcast says he threw it almost 19.8 percent of the time, which would’ve made it his second pitch, while Pitch Info limits it at 13.4 percent, good for a distant third.

He looks like a kitchen-sinker right now, which means he’d be a fitting replacement for Cueto in terms of arsenal. The catch is Clevinger struggled over the latter half of his 2022 workload, so while he threw all of his pitches against the wall, it’s not clear which ones stuck:

  • First 12 outings (11 starts): 60.1 IP, 49 H, 7 HR, 16 BB, 59 K, 3.13 ERA
  • Last 11 outings (11 starts): 54 IP, 53 H, 13 HR, 19 BB, 32 K, 5.67 ERA

That latter line would’ve looked far worse had Clevinger not closed out his regular season with six innings of one-run ball against the White Sox on Oct. 1. The one run was a second-pitch homer by Elvis Andrus, after which Clevinger recorded 18 outs over the course of 64 pitches.

But even when looking at his first half, it’s hard to size it up with much confidence. Besides returning from the UCL repair, he opened the season on the injured list with a knee sprain, suffered a triceps strain in May, then tested positive for COVID in June. Ideally, his best stretch of work wouldn’t include so much starting, stopping and slow-rolling.

That said, if Clevinger were a stabler presence, then he wouldn’t be in the White Sox’s sights. If they’re looking for a signing that would merely complete a rotation instead of rearranging it, Clevinger would fit the bill. If Clevinger managed to resemble Rodón or Cueto in terms of impact or reliability, the rotation would rearrange itself in due time.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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It really sucks that the contention window has been spent “dumpster-diving” in the free agent market.

Bloated payroll with titanic-sized holes in the roster, zero minor league depth, and presumably little cash to spend this off-season.

There needs to be a case study written on how to screw up a rebuild that kickstarts by trading 5 and 6-WAR players.

Maybe not. Maybe all you need to know is that the rebuild was steered by the same people who crashed into the iceberg earlier.

Their window to spend started in 2020, and Grandal wound up being the apex of their ambitions instead of the beginning of something bigger. Just pathetic and thoroughly disappointing.


You’re right, JMBF. I am so sick of this dumpster-diving. I’ve always been a hot-stove fan and find it interesting to play GM and try to tweak tje roster, conservationally. But as a fan since the 1950s, the only off-seasons that brought any glimmer of hope were the ones where actual star players were acquired. It rarely led to any championships, but players like Dick Allen, Tom Seaver, Carlton Fisk, Greg Luzinski, Tim Raines, Albert Belle, etc, etc gave the fans raised expectations and high hopes. Names mentioned this off-season like Gallo, Conforto, Clevenger, Bellinger, … and all the others are simply the dumpster dives. I dream of seeing the headlines that blare the name of a true ‘star’ player joining the White Sox

Augusto Barojas

Clevinger threw 6 innings of 1 run ball on Oct 1 vs the Sox, immediately followed by 2.2 innings and 7 runs vs the Dodgers and Phillies in the playoffs. He didn’t even retire a batter vs the Phillies. And he could be the Sox big “prize” of the offseason, while the Twins are looking at Rodon.

All of the “in Jerry and Hahn we trust” crowd who are projecting that the Sox are going to be a World Series contender in 2023 with no meaningful improvements or free agent signings in 2+ offseasons… make me want to barf!! No point in arguing with such people.


He shuts down the Sox to further drive the point home that they have no ability at all vs even mediocre right handed pitching, and then gets torched by two real offenses in the playoffs. And he might be their big get this offseason. Hilarious, if you have a dark sense of humor.


Lol I’d challenge you to find even *one* member of an “in Jerry and Hahn we trust crowd” on this site.

Augusto Barojas

Someone wrote 100 sentences the past couple days on a prior thread trying to justify the 2023 roster as is or with a couple minor changes as a World Series contender.

Everybody knows that Reinsdorf runs this team in a half ass way, at best. The delusion is in thinking that he can keep doing that – and that they can win anyway. No, they cannot.


I’ve said before that if Grandal is the biggest contract Jerry gives out during the rebuild, they will never win a championship. That will not be proven wrong. All discussions about this team winning a title are basically pissing in the wind until that changes.

And the thing is, one big signing would not even be enough, they probably need two or three.

Bonus Baby

Not one person did that — unless you consider getting real players at LF, SP and 2B to be minor changes.

And there were several people (not just “someone”) on the other thread that thought the team with real players added at LF, SP, and 2B should be expected to win 95 games or more. At the same time, those very people were talking about how badly Hahn and Reinsdorf have mismanaged the team.

If you believe the Sox core will perform just as they did in 2022, that’s fine, that’s your guess–but people arguing otherwise are relying on things like well-established modelling projections, they are not saying anything at all about trusting Hahn or Reinsdorf.

Augusto Barojas

And what would make anybody believe that the Sox are going to add 3 or 4 good players when they have not added one since the end of 2020? The kinds of players the Sox will wind up adding are not the kind that will propel an 81 win team sans Abreu to championship level, except in someone’s fantasy. They will add mediocre players, at best, and nothing will change.

Their inability to hit RHP has been a huge issue for 3 years, is crippling in a playoff series, and the chance of an impact bat to change that are basically zero. Abreu vs RHP had an OPS of over .800 last year, just under .800 in 2021, and over 1.0 in 2020. Aside from Torres, who the Yankees are unlikely to part with, zero of the players mentioned in the other article constitute the caliber of player that would even replace Abreu’s production, much less fix this issue. It’s the elephant in the room for this team, and until they fix it with a couple of real players, this team is headed nowhere. Better versions of Grandal/Moncada would help but are not the answer, either.

Bonus Baby

I don’t have faith that they will make the right moves at all. I mean, the rumors seem to be that the team will be cutting around $13 million from the payroll during the “championship window” that they told us to wait for years for. And that’s right after they finally got rid of Reinsdorf’s personal buddy as manager, who never should have been hired in the first place. Those are on Reinsdorf, obviously, and although I’m guessing they probably won’t match last year’s payroll (or more), I keep saying that it’s totally unacceptable if they don’t–pretty much every post I make or tweet I send out says that it’s totally unacceptable to cut payroll this year by even a dollar.

For Hahn, there were tons of OPP’s that mentioned trading Hendriks to help in other areas, b/c the Sox have a generally pretty good bullpen and a closer might step up out of the few back end guys they have. Do I think he’ll actually realize that hoarding relievers at the expense of other spots on the team doesn’t win championships? I doubt it, but until he fails again, there’s a chance he makes better decisions this year.

The main difference I can see between us is that I’m putting some faith in the models (like Steamer) that suggest most of the core (except Cease) should be a lot better this year than last. And it seems like you expect them to play much more like last year than two years ago. With respect to management and ownership, I honestly expect that each of us are just about as mistrustful of, and disgusted by, Reinsdorf/Hahn, the other one.

Last edited 3 months ago by Bonus Baby
Trooper Galactus

I thought they’d win 94-95 games just by being healthier, and they somehow mismanaged injuries even worse than before.


I don’t hate the Clevinger idea, but meanwhile the Twins are apparently trying to sign Correa and Rodon. How did we go from “making an effort” to sign Harper and Machado to this?


You or somebody else made the same comment a year ago about how did we go from being in on Harper/Machado to this. It will be a valid comment every year until JR dies or sells the team.

Unless, gasp, they do something that shocks everybody like sign a good player for once.


Haha yeah I probably did. And I’ll keep saying it until something changes, but as you said I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath.


I don’t much care what the Twins do. Good for them for getting Correa for a year! It got them to all of 78 wins.


Here is how a Clevinger signing should be graded

Sox go out and find established players to fill holes in the outfield and at 2nd base =A

Sox internally fill OF holes but add a 2nd basemen =C

Sox internally fill OF and 2nd base holes and MC is the only significant signing of the off season =F

Lets all face the facts we know the outcome here…. im never falling for it again, after the Velequez signing people thought they would still add a starter they didnt, after garcia and harrison signed we thought no way that was the only position player additions, after Gravemen and Kelly we all thought well this must mean they are gonna still spend they have RF to fill… nope

The sox barely have 10 mil in suppose payroll to play with they are going to pathetically limp into their middle contention year with no major upgrades and if anything a roster that shed significant contributions in Abreu, Cueto, Andrus…. what a nightmare

Bonus Baby

I probably wouldn’t grade it quite so highly, since I think they really could have gotten a more sure-fire starter at the same time they fill their OF and 2B goals. But I don’t hate the Clevinger signing, and basically agree with you that it all depends on what they do at the other spots.


Whether he signs or not, please don’t subject us to that photo ever again.


That image makes him looks like he’s in a network variety show c. 1976.

Last edited 3 months ago by asinwreck

I was thinking “stock photo of Kid Rock fan” but that works also.

Joliet Orange Sox

I could not look away from the BBVH video that asinwreck links to. It gets odder the longer it goes on – eventually featuring a very short duet by Ann B. Davis and Rip Taylor dressed in duck costumes followed by Rerun and the other kids from What’s Happening!! dancing. I recommend clicking on the link for those readers who went to high school in the 1970’s. The episode in the link aired on April 25, 1977 according to imdb which is the same month the Clash (“the only band that matters”) released their debut album in the UK. Pop culture is, was, and always will be weird.


What may be the most inconceivable thing to younger readers is that show was not particularly ridiculous as network programming of the time went. The Osmonds had a very successful show where they did things like….sing Steely Dan. Mary Tyler Moore followed her sitcom with a short-lived show featuring David Letterman and Michael Keaton in the cast. Sonny & Cher had one of the more successful versions of the format, no doubt their success inspired a host of imitators.


I hate you.


If true this is a classic Sox type deal. Cheap and hope for production.


Clevinger is a done deal according to Rosenthal.


And now, after the signing, Sox fans will spend the rest of the offseason waiting for follow up moves while they do nothing.