By signing Mike Clevinger in November, well before all of the similar back-end rotation candidates found homes, the White Sox implicitly signaled their trust in him.
The timing separates it from the standard compromised-character transaction. Take the Royals, who couldn’t resist the temptation to sign Aroldis Chapman for $3.75 million last week. Chapman served baseball’s first suspension under a specific domestic violence policy in 2016 and still doesn’t seem entirely stable, but he hasn’t been in capital-T Trouble in a while, so hey, sign him for cheap, and maybe he can be traded for a better person (and talent) after four months. If it doesn’t go well for any reason, the investment is negligible. It’s a cynical move that requires lowering standards and holding noses, but between the lateness of the signing and the modest price, there are signals that everybody understands the deal, even if many won’t endorse it.
The White Sox showed no such awareness with Clevinger. The Sox made him their second-most important addition of the winter, the guy tasked with filling Johnny Cueto’s surprisingly large shoes at the back end of the rotation. Those aren’t the actions of a team with reservations, and sure enough, after The Athletic reported Tuesday afternoon that Clevinger was under MLB investigation following allegations of domestic violence and child abuse, both the club and an Athletic source said the White Sox only learned of the investigation after the signing.
Still, it’s surprising that the White Sox wouldn’t have a sense of this, although not because anybody had an obligation to tell them. Vinnie Duber says that information is usually not disclosed …
A source informed CHGO that player agents are not obliged to share information regarding league investigations with teams during negotiations and that neither the league nor the players’ union shares that information with teams, either. Similarly, neither the league nor the players’ union is obligated to share the information with the other party, and generally, they do not.
… and it’s probably because such investigations already have a process under the collective bargaining agreement, and leaking incomplete details regardless of merit would be an easy way to put a thumb on the scale of a player’s market while potentially jeopardizing other confidentiality concerns.
No, it’s fair to question whether the White Sox did due diligence because Clevinger’s public history was already spotty, and there weren’t pressing baseball reasons to land his services. The former took a backseat in the reaction to the signing because the more immediate question was whether Clevinger was even any good.
Now there really isn’t a best-case scenario here. Even if the investigation clears Clevinger — and The Athletic’s article now includes an emphatic denial of the claims from Clevinger’s representation — it’s still the second time he’s dealt with messy accusations from a partner, and his name also surfaced during the cross-examination of Trevor Bauer’s accuser. Tuesday’s news surprised, but it didn’t shock.
There also isn’t a wholly satisfying course of action. I’d be fine if the White Sox rid themselves of Clevinger right now, but if they feel like they’ve been duped, why risk owing him all of his contract when the league could suspend him and prevent millions from going his way? They’d still be branded incompetent from signing him in the first place, and it’d probably add another lawsuit to the franchise’s growing pile, so they can’t yet cut him cleanly. (Also, as a-t noted in the comments, the joint agreement in the CBA prevents the White Sox from taking punitive action at this point.)
With Bauer and the Dodgers as precedent, it seems like the path forward is a heaping helping of no-comments and administrative leave until the league announces its results. The best they can do under those restrictions is signing Michael Wacha or lesser sixth-starter candidates in the interim to tip their preferred course of action.
But even if that’s the only real choice the White Sox have, it still sucks, because there’s no way to know if closure is weeks away, months away, or impossible to attain. The White Sox barely got started trying to undo the damage from their last first-guessable personnel decision immediately made worse by serious charges, and now here comes another one to darken the first days of Pedro Grifol’s managerial career. The Dodgers could win with or without Bauer, but the White Sox’s most direct path to a rebound involved Clevinger enjoying modest-or-better success. Two days before the accusations and investigation were revealed to the public, Ethan Katz touted Clevinger’s upside:
“Where he was in his career and where we’re hoping we can get him to, that’s a No. 1 or No. 2 in your rotation,” said Katz of free-agent signing Mike Clevinger, whom he coached in Single A in the Angels organization.
The hope is that Clevinger didn’t do the things he’s accused of doing, because obviously that would be awful. It’s also awful if this ends up being a fabrication, because the last thing domestic violence victims need is a prominent “what about” example when they risk everything to step forward. Some outcomes are better than others, but there isn’t one that’s worth rooting for. If the best possible resolution is that Clevinger consistently chooses regrettable company, what does that make the White Sox?
I read that the Padres knew about this incident last year. If that’s the case, then a little investigation on the Sox part would have thrown up some red flags on Clevinger. It almost seems like this organization purposely tries to piss off the fans as much as possible. Which is probably preferable to being so utterly incompetent that they continue to make blunder after blunder. Which is worse, blind arrogance or utter incompetence?
Hard to say but I think it’s them using blind arrogance as the face for utter incompetence that takes the cake.
Por que no los dos
Bahaha this is funny to witness at this point…Wowsers
I can see players pulling a Bartolo and just disappearing for a time this season until they feel like returning. Has disaster written all in, around and over it.
Dude, nothing about this is funny. Like, I can’t even tilt my head back and just laugh at how absurdly inept the team is. Like Jim said, it’s just gross.
I cannot imagine Clevinger and Hendricks in the same clubhouse.
I already don’t want Clevinger in the dugout. I hope he gets into administrative leave, and his contract just goes away without 1 inning thrown as a White Sox member.
I guess White Sox marketing team already issued an order to stop making Clevinger jerseys.
How about taking a gamble on Danny Duffy? His health concerns play well with the team makeup and he’d come cheap which is a Sox must.
I think he’s probably currently injured, else with his talent he’d have signed
That hasn’t deterred the Sox in the past.
Duffy signs with the Rangers, I think its a good risk on a minor league contract. Actually I like Clint Frazier on a minor league contract too. Where’s Hahn? Oh yeah, in hiding after his Clevinger debacle.
Another sad aspect of this situation for the Sox is that not only Rick Hahn is to blame here.
Clearly, Ethan Katz knows Clev well and assessed the situation and must have urged the Sox to make this acquisition.
As Jim and Josh said in the podcast this morning, this should not be falling to Katz to decide and if it did/does then there is the big F’n problem. And let hope the same isn’t happening with Grifol and Benintendi, Alberto, Rivero.
Katz had him in single A. I do not assume that he knew him well and “assessed the situation”, whatever that means. Should he have said, “Mike, by the way, engaged in any domestic abuse since we worked together?”
Hard to have an offseason worse on vibes. Getting rid of TLR’s old man stink was badly needed, but the franchise cornerstone/team dad signing with fuckin’ Houston, the beloved closer getting cancer, and now this shitshow. What’s next, Robert tearing his ACL on an Instagram live streamed workout a la Tarik Cohen?
The Bears employ former FBI agents to run their security dept, and screening players is their job, also getting them out of trouble it possible. The NFL also employs former feds to run their investigations and find things before they blow up. one unofficial phone call, off the record, with cops talking to cops, and this signing never happens.
The White Sox clearly don’t have this person making these calls, and more importantly the FO and ownership don’t think it’s important. This is now twice it has happened. I think ultimately JR and Co are good people, we’ll intentioned, but they aren’t capable of running an operation like this anymore.
Before we conclude that the Sox hands are tied, the Univ of Texas fired their head coach with 6 yrs left on his deal. The DV charges were dropped against him, and they are willing to take their chances in court that they won’t have to pay. If that coach wants to sue for that money, he will have to defend against the pictures and statements his fiancé made in civil court, a very public process. Fuck Clevinger, humiliating him for $12 mil is worth it. The White Sox are cowards if they don’t terminate the contract for cause today.
Their hands are indeed tied for the moment: it’s not comparable bc the UT coach doesn’t have a MLBPA CBA backing his contract, and additionally, the UT coach having criminal charges filed makes that case entirely different than here, where it is only MLB’s investigation, nothing via the courts.
From the Joint Agreement:
So they can’t do anything like DFAing, unless Clevinger were to be injured in the incident (like K-Rod breaking his hand punching his father-in-law) or couldn’t play due to criminal charges/incarceration. Neither of which is happening here.
I think discipline is narrowly defined as suspension or fine. They’re probably free to cut him under the personal conduct clause.
Let him file a grievance.
DFAing is clearly an “adverse action”. The personal conduct clause isn’t collectively bargained and thus MLBPA has a hard line that it’s therefore not enforceable. If the Dodgers didn’t do that re Bauer, why do you think the Sox can or should here? That Joint Agreement is legally binding.
The Sox can do it because it’s only $12million, it pays for itself if nobody sees him ever in a White Sox uniform, and it’s good press for a team that needs it.
The Dodgers were stuck because $100 million is a big deal for anyone.
The team should act as if he is gone. That is, they should find a 5th starter. They should not say anything about Clevinger and hope that MLB does their work for them and saves them as much of the 12M as possible. Your statement that “it’s only $12million” reminds me of the definition of minor surgery as surgery done to someone else.
For the Ebenezer Reinsdorf… $12 million is his version of $100 mil. So there is no way he will allow that to happen.
I’m not sure if this is totally correct. Not saying I know for sure because I am not a labor lawyer specializing in sports. However, it seems teams can DFA a player for basically any reason or no reason. They just have a legal obligation to pay them afterwards.
The best-case scenario involves Jerry being so shamed by this latest self-inflicted wound that he immediately cedes control of the team. The new chairman then fires Kenny and Rick, replacing Kenny with the best mind in the business. I think there’s a 60/40 chance of this happening…
I don’t see Jerry changing one bit over this. He didn’t with his beloved LaRussa, why should he now. They just say, “We had no clue!”. in fact, they are saying that already.
Jerry hired a guy with a DUI. Shame doesn’t seem to be his forte.
Hiring a guy that had a DUI is a little different than what’s going on with Clevinger. TLR drove his car onto a curb, right? I’m sure as hell not condoning what TLR did but because he didn’t hurt anyone, other than himself, comparing it to what Clevinger allegedly did is wrong.
In my heart of hearts, if JR or anyone in the FO knew about what Clevinger did and ok’d it, I’d be surprised. I think we just have to wait and see what comes out but Clevinger should be gone regardless. And if any of the higher ups knew what he did, they should be fired.
Not a good way to start this season.
I drove my car drunk but nobody got hurt is pretty lame and weak.
Never going to happen. And, the Williams/Hahn & Co will all circle the wagons to defend and deflect to protect Reinsdorf.
The White Sox most direct path to a rebound never involved Clevinger though. Ideally, we have 3 Cy Young candidates headlining the rotation in Cease/Lynn/Giolito with Clevinger serving as a way to break up the righties a bit. There shouldn’t have been any major expectations heaped on him which makes him fairly easily replaceable since 5th starters are generally not good pitchers in the first place.
Given how thin this organization is on pitching depth they needed a decent free agent pitcher signing this offseason. Now they are in a bigger hole.
Yep. The most direct path to rebounding involved the player they signed to hold down a rotation spot holding down a rotation spot. That seems like something that risks belaboring the obvious more than inviting debate.
Yes the sad thing is that even though they’ve known about this since at least mid December they have not added a single pitcher with a start in the majors, and this from an org that couldn’t even field a starting 5 in AAA last yr. I mean shit they should’ve have 4-5 NRI’s in camp even without the shitshow. This penny pinching shit is so stupid and yet they will have now ate $30 mil on 5th SP that will not/wish they hadn’t started a game for them. How is that frugal? How do you keep your job after that?
The only NRIs this org ever signs are hitters with 3% walk rates.
Speaking of how do you keep your job.
and now Mike Clevinger?
7 years of cutting guys rather than paying them to play out the year, and we are talking about guys signed for $8 mil or more per guy. How is the payroll important? How do you keep your job?
I don’t think the players you mentioned and Clevinger should be in the same discussion. They vary between bad acquisitions and okay acquisitions who turned bad because of their inability to produce on the field. I think we all wish that was all we were concerned about with Clevinger.
Also, Shields was never cut. He improved all the way to mediocre in his last year (2018).
Ok, he might have been cut in my mind. 🙂
I’m not talking about character, which I agree with you. I’m talking about big money pissed away on bad choices that you would rather go away, all the while crying about how poor you are because of the fans.
Yeah, I don’t think anybody should be looking at the Castillo or Encarnacion signings like they weren’t necessarily good ideas at the time. The Clevinger situation absolutely stands apart, as you said.
I agree that Cueto left big shoes to fill at the back of the rotation. But his shoes as a character we could root for were even bigger. That is what made it surprising to me to see the original reaction from many to the Clevinger signing – here was someone who already had a spotty history and who didn’t pitch well last year (I watched enough Padres games to have a good sense of that), but many seemed to think he was an upgrade over Cueto. I think that take on the moves both undersold the value of signing good, likable human beings, and was based on a flawed evaluation of Clevinger as a pitcher.
In answering a question I asked at Soxfest a few years back, Chris Getz talked about how important relationships were in baseball. This, and other failures, make me concerned how good the White Sox’ relationships are. It only took a couple of hours for White Sox Twitter to come up with additional issues with Clevenger that were already public.
Getz could’ve just been referring to the fact that he never would’ve gotten a job as farm director if he hadn’t previously played in the White Sox org.
At this point, the situation seems so messy and uncomfortable that the Sox should be used to it given their hiring history. They just make it so hard on the people who actually care about the team to keep going. All the parties involved I hope find some resolution in this but in the Sox case, we are probably a few months away from another embarrassing storyline
It really takes a special organization to have a 7 year rebuild result in fewer fans than when they started it and the ones that are left fully aware of how rotten the organization is from the front office to the dugout. Kudos White Sox!
What’s the word for “Buzzkill” when there really wasn’t any buzz to begin with?….whatever that word is would be my off-season report card grade…
Best case scenario for Sox fans seems to be the League acts swiftly, suspending Clevinger for the full season and he never pitches for the Sox, Martin Davis surprises as a serviceable 5th starter with the help of an opener, and the club has an extra $12 million for a mid season acquisition….
Don’t see any of that happening.
The word you are looking for is Hahn
I wonder if the Nicky Lopez trade makes more sense now in a combo Nicky Lopez / Brad Keller deal. Keller isn’t good but he eats innings and is probably not terrible as the 5 starter. We take the contract off their hands and grab Lopez along the way. Adds 8 – 9 mil to the salary total.
And who are we trading to add mediocrity, and lots of it?
The major assumption on my side is it doesn’t take much to get them, especially grabbing the Keller deal. Michael Taylor is a much better player, one I’d have loved to have as the right side platoon/cf backup and he cost about nothing. So essentially, a little less than nothing.
I would have rather had Mondesi, as well.
mondesi is certainly more talented than lopez but he cannot stay on the field even as much as the most often injured white sox
Therein lies the problem. Even considering the money they save, I don’t think the Royals would part with either for a pittance of busted prospects.
i mean… they sure did for taylor lol
I mean, not OUR busted prospects.
They have to take Leury back.
The White Sox wouldn’t be ‘taking the contract off their hands’, the Royals had the option to tender Keller a contract or not, and decided to, thus they view him as a positive asset. Lopez has 3 years of team control. It wouldn’t be an overwhelming return but given the poor White Sox farm system you’d be giving up multiple top-15 prospects. Are you prepared to do that for those two?
Transcript of the front office meeting:
Hahn: I’d like to sign Clevinger to fill out the rotation. Gonna have to go high, probably $12 million for one year because he’s going to generate a lot of interest.
Jerry: Wow, that is a lot of dough. Any issues we should know?
Hahn: Not really. I asked his agent and he had only good things to say.
Jerry: Well, Ok. Throw the fans a bone so they’ll get off my back.
Yeah this is really horrible. You just hope that they were building an organizational culture that would avoid these kinds of issues. I am not sure if there was a way for them to obtain knowledge of the incidents. It is not like the movies where a former FBI agent can find out every single thing about anyone. But as Jim pointed out, there were other red flags about Clevinger. You just hope their internal processes are robust enough that they could avoid people like Clevinger without having 100% knowledge of what happened. They’ve proven many times this is not the case, but it still sucks to be a White Sox fan today.
We are days away from….
Today the White Sox announced the signing of Trevor Bauer as insurance against a Mike Clevinger suspension which seems imminent. Reached for comment Rick Hahn said, “It wasn’t our first choice but our fans count on us to make the team better and we think we did that today. We had some lemons and made Lemon Meringue casserole with a few sprinkles on top and feel good about our decision and direction.
Assuming, as I do, that the accusations are true, my desire is that the Sox do not find a way to wriggle free from the financial obligation. It’s not that I want the player to gain financially – though if he does, I’d love to see that money used to pay punitive damages following a civil suit against him. Instead, I want this organization, an undisputable laughingstock of incompetence and dysfunction, to suffer financially for their own idiocy. It isn’t as though I have any expectation of their ability (or willingness to try) to truly compete.
Of course, I no longer subscribe to a service that pays fees for their network, live in the state which subsidizes their nearly-rent-free ballpark, nor do I plan to purchase tickets or merchandise from them until drastic change has occurred. So, beyond my tenuous fandom – and as another commenter said recently, I am now much more of a Sox Machine fan than a White Sox fan – I have no skin in the game, so that financial loss doesn’t bother me one bit.
Let them wallow in their own decay.
Well, it’s a point of view.
funny how everyone is against this guy now. If he pitches 200 inings, wins 20 and is in the cy young conversation, well, everyone will forget. The sox made a move this winter, leave it at that.
Doubtful, there are some pretty hardened grudge carriers on this site.
Chris Sale was a perennial CYA contender and one of the best pitchers in the history of the franchise and I was ecstatic when they got rid of his dumb ass.
It’s a little unfair to paint “us” with the broad brush of all being moral windsocks.
Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas.
Exclusively shop in the bargain bin, get defective merchandise.