Following up: White Sox make Mike Clevinger official; starting pitching still expensive

(Photo by Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports)

As much as I’d like to think that my Sunday morning post noting that Mike Clevinger’s pending status reminded the White Sox to make the signing official, it was probably more of a function of the winter meetings.

Clevinger is officially on the books for $12 million guaranteed, taking the form of an $8 million salary for 2023, followed by “a mutual $12 million option for 2024 that includes a $4 million buyout” according to the press release, which means the White Sox will pay $4 million even if they’re the ones declining the option. Mutual options are mostly a way to defer some salary, but Sam Miller wrote a good article back in 2017 explaining some other benefits.

Reading the coverage from Clevinger’s introductory Zoom call brought a few different players to mind. Clevinger praised Roger Bossard’s mound maintenance

“That was one of my favorite mounds in all the big leagues,” Clevinger said of the Guaranteed Rate Field pitcher’s mound he will pitch on in 2023. “So I’m excited to get back to it.” […]

“I don’t know [what it is about the mound exactly],” Clevinger said. “I can’t wait to talk to the grounds crew over there. It’s just perfect. Whether it’s the height, or the way the slope goes down.”

… which reminded me of Torii Hunter saying “the grass runs true” at then-U.S. Cellular Field during his free agent tour in 2007. The main difference is that Clevinger actually signed with the White Sox.

He also said that his knee was a bigger problem than his elbow in 2022

But more specifically that relationship is being entrusted to guide Clevinger back to front-of-the-rotation form after he missed 2021 with Tommy John surgery, and a right knee injury dogged him so badly in 2022 that he had trouble walking after some late-season outings. Clevinger said he did not need surgery, but received a platelet-rich plasma injection to address his medial collateral ligament, and he underwent a biomechanical assessment at a lab in San Diego to give Katz information to look over.

… which could be good news, since Clevinger’s Tommy John surgery was his second, and the success rate is lower for repeat customers. On the other hand, Lance Lynn and Michael Kopech have both struggled with knee injuries over the last couple of seasons, so it’s not clear whether the White Sox have answers for this particular issue.

Any pitcher who signs a one-year deal for $10 million has at least one major question mark, so any candidate the Sox filled out their rotation with would harbor a similar sort of doubt. Carlos Rodón and Johnny Cueto had theirs, and they turned out fine.

Speaking of starting pitchers, Josh and I are 3-for-3 in our mutual free agent predictions. In the wake of José Abreu going to the Astros and Jacob deGrom heading to the other Texas team, Justin Verlander is going to the Mets on a hefty two-year deal, according to Jeff Passan.

Verlander’s $43.333 million AAV matches that of his old/new teammate, as Max Scherzer signed with the Mets last winter for three years and $130 million. Verlander isn’t in the same class as Clevinger, Matthew Boyd, Zach Eflin, etc., but the signing continues a pattern of starting pitching being more expensive than all initial estimates at every level.

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I’m normally pounding the table for owners to spend more money, but I think Cohen was foolish to give that kind of money to Scherzer. Setting the market at 43 million year I don’t think was a wise move. As it is he already cost himself more money. I know I sound a little like Jerry, but 43 AAV seems extreme to me.

Last edited 9 months ago by dwjm3

Scherzer was worth 43M the year before he signed according to Fangraphs $/WAR. Maybe Cohen just outsourced his valuation. By the same measure, Verlander was worth $48.7M last year.

In some ways the lower total contract value makes it seem fairly low risk. Like think of the mid-tier players in their 30s who signed ~4/$64M contracts. A lot of them don’t do much. A super high end, but old pitcher, for about 1.5X that may be a better value.

But really, I don’t think he cares.


Good points, I didn’t realize that the Scherzer contract matched up that closely to the war-based valuation. I made the assumption that Cohen overshot it by a significant margin.


To be fair, he was worth $35M last year by the same measure, so Cohen may have overshot it a bit. But if it was based on RA9 WAR (runs scored [earned and unearned] instead of FIP), then Scherzer would have been worth more than 43M both in 2021 and 2022.


If only we had the “problem” of complaining about how much money our owner was spending to set the market.


Kershaw also signs………….with the Dodgers. 1/$20


Boy, at these pitching prices being thrown around if Clevinger starts 20 games and gets 150 IP and above, it’s a deal.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I admire Jim’s efforts to find increasingly off-putting pictures of Mike Clevinger.


I kinda like this one! The look is so committed to its camp that it comes out as almost charmingly 70s. One can only hope that Clevinger isn’t determined to try and repeat Dock Ellis’ 1970 alleged miracle.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I think I went on record at the time that those are the ugliest MLB baseball uniforms I’ve ever seen.


They’re fun and interesting! So many teams are too wedded to incredibly generic red/white/blue looks, like every team in the ALC except the Sox. Not everyone can get away with that kind of brightness, but I think it suits the city of SD, the roster, and especially their FO. They like big, splashy, aggressive moves, gunning to be the best.

Boldness paid off huge for the Sox with their City Connect jerseys. It’s good to be bold. Sometimes it flops badly, sometimes it’s wildly successfully. Better than being mired in uniform mediocrity.

Bonus Baby

Only thought I had when I first saw them was “Spumoni”


And I hate spumoni!


But if Sunshine decides to take his talents elsewhere in 2024, the Sox then do not have to pay the buyout, correct? This deal really seems like a steal, which makes me think he really does have a weird hard on for that mound.

I am very curious to see what Rodon signs for. I love the guy, but signing him to any long term deal just seems like a massive risk.


Mutual options are typically only deferred salary, but I think this one has a better chance than most of getting picked up because the buyout is so large. If Clevinger is roughly as effective in 2023 as he was in 2022, then each party might not think they can do better for 1/$8m. It’s still unlikely to be exercised, of course. But usually (as I take it) the buyout is much less and therefore more likely to be used.

Bonus Baby

I think the large buyout makes it almost impossible for the mutual option to get picked up if it’s a #2 type buyout. Clevinger will always decline, get his $4M, and then he can still sign whatever contract he wants with any team in 2024.


That’s the point of the deal for him. Make as much $ as possible in ’22, while rebuilding his value for another run at a bigger payday next offseason.
Jim explains it perfectly above.
The Sox get to defer some $ to next year.
You are really stuck on this option thing. It’s a #2. He didn’t sign for 8, with the hope of getting 12, before Dec. 1 in this market.

Bonus Baby

Yeah, I heard your opinion, “it can’t possibly be a #3 buyout.” Unless you can show me confirmation that it’s #2, I have no reason to believe you, since there’s plenty of reasons for #3.

Last edited 9 months ago by Bonus Baby
Bonus Baby

And for reference:

Fangraphs had Clevinger expected to get 1/$9M (Ben Clemens) or 1/$8M (Median Crowdsource).


Why will he always decline? What if he stinks or is injured? If he doesn’t think he can get $8m on the free market, he’d presumably opt-in.

In that case, the Sox might not think they can do better with $8m on the free market and with several spots to fill in the rotation next year.

Again, I still don’t think it’s particularly likely. But I think it’s (slightly) more likely than most.

Bonus Baby

You’re right, if he stinks or is injured, he’ll opt in, so I was wrong when I said that. What I was thinking, and what I should have written, was that the option will almost always be declined by either the Sox or Clevinger or both: If he pitches well (both sides figure he’s worth over $8M in 2024), he declines, if both sides figure he’s worth under $8M, the Sox decline.

You’re also right that there may be a little gray area if he’s worth right around $8M. The Sox may think he’s worth more, and he may think he’d get less on the open market. And then it’s slightly possible that they both opt in.


It functions as both deferred salary and a buyout, got it. Sometimes these contracts contain things that to me seem needlessly complicated.

Bonus Baby

Has it been confirmed by the White Sox or some other reporting that the buyout is a #2 buyout and not a number #3 buyout?

I can understand that they may have just wanted to essentially defer salary (#2), but I can also see purposes for the #3 buyout:

1–Say Clevinger and his agent think he can probably get more than 1/$8M on the open market in 2023, but don’t think they’ll get better than 1/$10M (and don’t think anyone will give him multiple years guaranteed).

2–In that case, the $4M buyout protects Clevinger if has a major injury or is otherwise pretty bad in 2023. The Sox will surely decline the option here (triggering the buyout) b/c they don’t want to spend an extra $8 million on a pitcher that isn’t worth it for 2024. In the end, Clevinger ends up getting $12M from the 2023 contract ($2M more than he figured he could get otherwise in 2023). So win for Clevinger of about $2M.

3–However, if Clevinger kills it so much in 2023 that he is likely to be worth, say, a $15M AAV multi-year contract in 2024, then the Sox will exercise, Clevinger will decline, and he ends up with only $8M from 2023–a loss for him of $2M over what he would have gotten had he just signed a 1/$10M contract in 2023.

Long story short, Clevinger gets an extra $2M if he’s bad in 2023, which is nice for security, but loses $2M if he’s really good, which he may not care about too much if he’s signing a big contract for 2024.

Anyway, I’m just wondering whether there’s confirmation out there from the Sox or someone else that it’s a #2 buyout and not a #3.



I’m morbidly curious what the Sox will give up for Max Kepler. I’ll guess Bryan Ramos and Kendall Graveman.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Please, no more bad outfielders!


Kepler is average and is better then any non-Robert outfielder the sox have right now.

Last edited 9 months ago by patty
Right Size Wrong Shape

The second part is true, but he still stinks.

Bonus Baby

So, for the people saying Kepler is a bad outfielder, do you mean that he’s worse than an average outfielder? I think that’s almost certainly untrue.

2021 (121 games): 2.3 fWAR; 2.1 bWAR
2022 (115 games): 2.0 fWAR; 2.1 bWAR

If anything, that’s above average by all accounts in both years.

Or do you mean that he’s average, but getting an average outfielder is bad?

Bonus Baby

Because an average outfielder (Kelpler) would be a huge upgrade for the Sox. I’d prefer Judge, but I’ll take Kepler in a heartbeat.

Right Size Wrong Shape

You and your numbers…

I expect this to happen every time a ball is hit to him. I think he stinks.

Bonus Baby


I think I’ll probably expect it to not happen every time, but cool. 🙂


The point to me is, you can throw all the numbers you want at me, but I’ve watched him play a lot and if you believe he is average I would surmise an over reliance on numbers.


his performance is average but his vibes are terrible. therefore on balance he’s bad

As Cirensica

He is a bad hitter that can field in the outfield. We tried that (Adam Engel). Didn’t work. Move on.

Bonus Baby

Adam Engel: Six years in the majors, and he hasn’t had a 2 WAR season. Not one. And his average WAR is somewhere between 0.5 and 1 WAR a year.

Max Kepler: Effectively 2 WAR or more every single season for the last 7 years. Career best year in 2019 he had 4 bWAR and 3.8 fWAR.

Kepler is also a year younger than Engel.

There seem to be several (if not several dozen) posts like this just about every day now, saying things almost as completely and obviously ridiculous as “Max Kepler is just like Adam Engel.” For all the folks making these kinds of daily comments: Do you know that the “facts” you’re stating are ridiculous, but just want to troll and argue anyway — or, are you so blinded by pessimism about the Sox and/or anger at management that you actually believe the stuff you write?


Kepler has had his moments, esp against the Sox, and he is left handed, but geez. Can’t they set their sights higher than that someone with an injury history and declining OPS the past 3 straight years?


Remember that fly ball that clanked off his mitt in the 9th inning a couple of years ago? That was a moment. He’d probably have more of those moments for the Sox. I’m not excited about Kepler.


Someone said he’s better than their non-Robert oufielders, which is true. But yeah, nobody is going to be excited about him. He’s the kind of player that will help them finish 2nd or 3rd.

I do recall that. We do not want him.


Hahahaha that would be the most White Sox dumb acquisition ever.

Joliet Orange Sox

I think Kepler would be far from the worst acquisition the Sox have ever made. He’d be an upgrade for an outfield spot. If the Sox picked up Kepler without giving up much and didn’t view his salary as so high that no other highly-paid player could be added, I’d be fine with it. However, I think we’re all pretty sure the Sox would give up significant prospects for Kepler and he and Clevinger would be the only new players added and since that’s the case I have no interest in Kepler.

Last edited 9 months ago by Joliet Orange Sox

The Phillies keep adding premium talent.


On an 11-year, $300M deal, full no-trade clause


Too bad they didn’t trade for Soto. They could simulate what the Nationals could have been.


As an answer to the Mets’ signiug of Verlander, that’s a pretty good one.


If I’m not mistaken, this means the Phillies will have *six* players on their roster next year who they signed for larger contracts than any free agent contract the Sox have ever doled out (Turner, Harper, Wheeler, Realmuto, Castellanos, Schwarber).


I wonder which team will have more success – the one willing to pay out 6 nine figure contracts, or the one willing to pay out none?


There goes the centerpiece of my OPP. I was willing to pay him $33M for 8 years. This is $27.27 for 11 years.


Two 300 million contracts given out by that ownership. The new generation of owners doesn’t care at all about keeping wages down. This is Jerry’s worst nightmare in the flesh

Last edited 9 months ago by dwjm3

bUT yoU Can’T THroW moNEy aT ThE ProBleM


Dave Dombrowski used to work for Jerry Reinsdorf.

Imagine that.


And got fired by GM Hawk Harrelson if I’m not mistaken! Really impressive how much damage Hawk did in just one year. Coulda had Dombrowski and La Russa (pre-senility) running things for a couple decades

Joliet Orange Sox

The problem with that plan is there was a never a pre-jackass version of TLR.

Last edited 9 months ago by Joliet Orange Sox

jackassery and winning is a lot more palatable than jackassery and losing

Joliet Orange Sox

I agree but there are plenty of managers who can win at a 0.513 clip without the jackassery.


With how the Sox spend money, wouldn’t it have made more sense at throwing the $12m at Cueto and gotten 2 years? I know there’s risk to this deal, but with what he just gave us last season seems preferable for 1 year of Clevinger


You think Cueto is going to take 2/$12 mil? Quaint.


Quaint? He got $4.2m on an incentive based deal as a 36 year old


Wasn’t trying to be condescending if it came out that way. Going in to the offseason I expected 2/$24 for him, now I’m expecting 2/$28-30 so a lot more than you are thinking.


It’s also possible he has indicated to them that he will not be returning.


If Matthew Boyd got 1/$10M in this market after throwing all of 13.1 IP last year, no way in hell Cueto settles for 2/$12M. Maybe $12M gets one year of him, but he had a really effective year; that gets paid much better that bad ones.


Players are worth whatever someone is willing to pay. Unfortunately for Sox fans, Reinsdorf doesn’t believe an individual player is worth the money the top players are currently getting. So we’ll have to be satisfied with the Clevingers of the world.


Clevinger should play an integral role in their 2nd or 3rd place finish in 2023.


With the big contracts being thrown around, I wanted to take a look at financials to see what the White Sox financial firepower really is. My conclusion is: the new generation of owners have a LOT more non-franchise money freely available to spend than Jerry does. Jerry’s net worth is ~$1.8B, which is basically entirely his 20% stake in the Sox ($1.7B valuation) and 40% stake in the Bulls ($4.1B valuation). He bought his stakes for a total of less than $30M; he is a billionaire via the franchises only. The Phillies primary owner Middleton, for example, already had his stake in the team when a few years ago he sold his stakes in the family tobacco business for about $3B. Steve Cohen’s apparently got about $26B to throw around, of which only 10% of that is the Mets’ valuation.

The other issue is that the Sox just do not bring in very much money, and never really have. Per Forbes, their revenue in 2021 was $258M, 6th-lowest in the league, between the Rays and the Pirates, and also somehow lower than every other AL Central team. They were $10M in the red. The Bulls of course do much better, 4th in the NBA at $352M for ’21, after only the Dubs, Lakers, and Knicks. Meanwhile for comparison to the Sox, the Cubs were 5th in revenue at $425M despite deliberately sucking ass in 2021.

Even in 2006, they were just 18th in revenue. Playing second fiddle to the Cubs in the smallest two-team market means that financially, they apparently kinda are a small-market team by default. They’re not doomed to it like Cleveland might be, bc obviously their financial ceiling is a lot higher than true small-market teams, but they are fairly poor in baseball terms unless they actually muscle that market away from the Cubs. It’s not that Jerry isn’t cheap, he could just blow his wad if he really wanted to, but the Sox only operate like a mid-market team bc Jerry also owns the Bulls.

So: the Sox need a new, richer owner. They can potentially claw back a good chunk of the local fanbase from the Cubs, who aren’t exactly operating like the Dodgers themselves under the moronic republican family. But they need either an absurdly rich buyer like Cohen, or Rays/Astros level analytics installed throughout the org.


They have the financial ability to win championships.
They don’t have a GM able to convert those $’s to wins.
Hahn turned $190mil into 81 wins this year. And he’s on track to do it again in ’23.
Unless it’s Jerry who will not allow them to get useful scouts, development staff and a working analytics dept., this is on Rick.

Last edited 9 months ago by PauliePaulie

Everyone in baseball has the financial ability to win championships. But Jerry (1) refuses to fire his executives for underperformance and (2) *also* refuses to not also meddle and get out of said executives’ way.

So the franchise is stuck: they can’t get a GM who will overhaul the org and model how it operates after the Rays/Stros etc., but they *also* can’t throw big financial resources at stars to make up for that deficit like the Nats did before blowing it up, or the Phillies are doing now. That longer-term bind is all Jerry.


The problem with this comment is it ignores the financials of the other 80% owners. Jerry might not have any other major investments/cash flows to put into the White Sox but the silent majority very well might. We don’t necessarily need Jerry to sell, we need some of those owners to sell their stakes. Which also to me paints a picture of Forbes numbers being skewed a bit. The White Sox increased their value 17.6% from 2017 to 2021 while operating in the red. That seems like a really low annual return while also supposedly losing money for billionaires.

I can’t wait for the Braves to be officially split off so we can finally get a clean look at the financials of a baseball team and all the “non-baseball” revenue that comes with it. I can’t believe the owners are allowing it to happen.


Please take the Forbes data with a big piece of salt. They are guesstimating. Also, 2021 was a weird year coming out of the pandemic. Illinois had more restrictive social distancing rules at sports venues that other states.


Sorry but I find the Forbes numbers to be highly dubious. Sox have/had the 3rd highest TV/Radio deal behind the Yankees and Dodgers, start from there. While they may share the attendance market with the Cubs, advertising is still “eyes on” so they still have a 10 mil market which is top tier. They also have some of the highest parking prices in the majors and teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs just do get as much from lack of capacity. Sky boxes, nobody in the majors has more than the Sox. Finally attendance, maybe they don’t rule the top of the market but in 2021 they’re solidly in the middle and prices in the lower bowl(where most of their attendance is) is in the top tier of the league.

So look at the numbers,
Boston – smaller TV deal, less advertising, less parking revenue, no sky boxes, and attendance only 130,000 more than the Sox but revenue is $479 mil or $221 mil more than the Sox. That’s close to double the revenue! How is that possible? Its not.

San Fran – smaller TV deal, less advertising, less parking revenue, no sky boxes, and attendance only 85,000 more than the Sox but revenue is $384 mil or $126 mil more than the Sox. How is that possible? Its not.

Philly – smaller TV deal, less advertising, less parking revenue, less sky boxes, and attendance 81,000 less than the Sox but revenue is $323 mil or $65 mil more than the Sox. How is that possible? Its not.

All 3 of those also pay the competitive balance tax so no revenue from that either.


Pittsburgh – one of the smallest TV deals, less advertising, less parking revenue, no sky boxes, and attendance 737,000 less than the Sox but revenue is $258 mil or the same as the Sox. How is that possible? Its not. Yes they get about $40 mil in competitive tax but nothing else adds up.

I’m not even going to go into expenses where the Sox are somehow losing money on a $140 mil payroll with even the very dubious $258 mil revenue.

As Cirensica

It seems the AVV for baseball players is on the rise. I wonder how long before we see a player earning in one year more than the largest White Sox contract. Players like Verlander and Scherzer already make in one year more than half of the White Sox largest contract.

To be in 2022, and the White Sox still hasn’t signed a contract for more than 100 million is just sad.


I’ve seen a few times here that Clevinger will basically help the white sox to a 2nd or 3rd place finish. If he’s the type of response we see to losing Abreu and Cueto, Kansas City, who pants the White Sox in more than one series last year, should be favored to pull ahead this year.