I will say up front that I don’t particularly care about Mike Clevinger’s free agency, specifically, as there are other buy-low, reclamation types I’d be way more interested in for the Cubs. But I do think an early signing in that tier – how much would it take to get the guy to sign right now and not wait out higher levels of the market – is pretty interesting.
And, based on Ken Rosenthal’s history of tweets like this – especially in the wee hours of the morning – it means Clevinger to the White Sox is going to happen fairly soon:
Clevinger, who’s about to turn 32, was obviously a stud for a couple years with Cleveland, but after the trade to the Padres and Tommy John surgery, he lost a couple MPH on his fastball, and the stuff just wasn’t what it was before. The whiffs vanished, and he was ultimately a well below average pitcher overall this past season. Maybe he progresses from there with a little more distance from surgery and an opportunity to learn to pitch at his new velocity. Maybe not.
Typically, that’s not the profile of a guy you see among the first starting pitching signings of the offseason. So far, only Tyler Anderson has signed (three years and $39 million with the Angels), which has me wondering if we are about to see Clevinger get a surprisingly large deal, even as a pure bounce-back candidate. Otherwise, why is he signing before any of the other starters?
Obviously the White Sox must’ve targeted him specifically, but with theoretically limited funds to spend this offseason, it’s kind of fascinating to me that they’re (likely?) being extra aggressive on Clevinger. It makes me wonder if they think they know a clear way to bounce him back (knowing him well from the AL Central, perhaps?), and thus they can’t risk him waiting out the market a bit to see if other teams, who miss on their preferred targets, would make him an offer.
Once we see what the deal is, I’ll be very interested in evaluating it as part of the broader market context. In theory, this year’s free agent class is very strong in second-tier starting pitching, which you would think would push down the price tag for a third-tier/bounce-back type like Clevinger. But if he gets a surprisingly healthy deal, what does that say about the mid-tier types? Are we going to say, “Oh, so that’s why no one has signed yet … “?
Each of FanGraphs and MLBTR had Clevinger just at the back end of their top 50 free agent rankings, by the way, getting a one-year deal in the $8 to $10 million range, which sounds about right to me. We’ll see.
UPDATE: The signing is happening, and it is indeed a one-year deal for at least $8 million:
The implication there is that he’s not getting a TON more than $8 million. If so, it just seems right, and you wonder what it was that had him and the White Sox moving early. Maybe the White Sox simply had a really good sales pitch for how they could help him bounce back, and he was ready to get started.
Whatever the case, unless Clevinger got something way outside that $8-10 million range, I don’t think there will be any reason to suspect it’s a comment on the market in general. Just an early fit for whatever idiosyncratic reason.
UPDATE 2: Now THIS is more like what you’d be expecting for a guy like Clevinger to sign this early:
I do not see it. I don’t see guaranteeing Clevinger that much on a one-year deal after the warning signs last year, but I do see him saying “Yup!” if offered that amount right now. The White Sox must REEEEALLY believe they know how to get him back on track, and/or the price tags on next-tier starting pitchers are going to be surprisingly high (so the White Sox jumped on a next-next tier guy they knew they could get for just one year).