The Chicago White Sox began with their offseason plans on Monday as the team finalized a one-year deal with free-agent starting pitcher Mike Clevinger worth $12 million.
The deal has yet to be officially announced by the team as Clevinger still needs to complete a physical but the move is questionable at best for a team that is looking for significant improvement to their starting rotation this offseason.
Entering the offseason with Johnny Cueto being a free agent and uncertainty surrounding the health of Michael Kopech and the future of Lucas Giolito, the White Sox had several question marks in their rotation that needed to be addressed.
For the Sox, they believe that Clevinger will be their answer. Here is the thing about that thought, it is wrong. After missing the entire 2021 season while recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, Clevinger returned to the mound for the San Diego Padres in 2022.
He was not the same top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher that the team thought they were acquiring from the Cleveland Guardians in 2020.
Mike Clevinger is not the answer to the Chicago White Sox’s current needs.
In a tick over 114 innings pitched last season, Clevinger posted a 4.33 ERA but his FIP of 4.98 truly indicates the struggles he had with the Padres.
Furthermore, Clevinger’s average fastball velocity was down by nearly two mph last season in comparison to 2020.
Coupling the regression in velocity along with Clevinger’s strikeouts per 9 innings dropping from 8.6 in 2020 to 7.16 in 2022 and the White Sox have some work to do if they want Clevinger to return to finding success at the Major League level.
Especially when you consider the lack of competent fielding that will be backing up Clevinger when he is on the mound.
The White Sox are not getting the Clevinger that dominated the American League Central division when he was with the Guardians for the first five seasons of his career. The White Sox are getting a Clevinger that is broken and will only add to the question marks of their rotation.
For a team that is claiming to be strapped for cash this offseason, spending $12 million on a reclamation project in Clevinger is not smart business.
Unfortunately, Clevinger can not be depended on to be a competent starting pitcher at this point in his career. A much cheaper alternative for the White Sox, and likely more effective, would have been to re-sign Cueto.