Clevinger’s contract choice makes him a suitable option for Yankees rotation

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John Allen
Monday March 18, 2024

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As the Yankees are looking for a short-term rotation option, free-agent pitcher Mike Clevinger‘s choice of a one-year deal may prove to be a suitable option for them.

According to a report by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, right-handed pitcher Mike Clevinger is taking a different approach to free agency compared to other available starting pitchers. While some free agent pitchers are targeting lucrative multi-year deals, Clevinger, through his agent Seth Levinson of ACES, is reportedly seeking a one-year contract.

This strategy stands in contrast to the approaches of several other prominent starting pitchers on the market. High-profile left-handers like Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery are aiming for multi-year contracts with significant value. Snell, reportedly desiring a two- or three-year deal with opt-out clauses, has set his sights on an annual average value (AAV) around $30 million. Earlier this month, rumors surfaced that Montgomery was pursuing a seven-year contract.

Another free agent pitcher, right-hander Michael Lorenzen, is also seeking a longer-term deal. Despite receiving one-year offers in the $5-7 million range, the 32-year-old reportedly prefers a two-year agreement. Recent reports hint at possible Yankees’ interest in him.

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Clevinger’s contract wish sits well with Yankees

Clevinger’s preference for a one-year contract presents a distinct strategy in this year’s starting pitcher market. This approach could make him an attractive option for teams seeking a short-term solution to bolster their rotation.

With less than two weeks until Opening Day, Mike Clevinger’s willingness to sign a one-year deal makes him a more intriguing option for teams looking to strengthen their pitching staff. The urgency for Clevinger to find a new team is likely high, considering he hasn’t been linked to any MLB clubs since becoming a free agent in November.

Despite the lack of recent buzz surrounding him, Clevinger emerged as a compelling mid-rotation option early in the offseason. While a return to his peak form with the Cleveland Indians, where he mirrored aces like Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, might be unrealistic, Clevinger displayed solid mid-rotation potential during his stint with the Chicago White Sox last year.

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A right wrist injury limited him to 131 1/3 innings, but he maintained a respectable 3.77 ERA and a 4.28 FIP during his time in Chicago. His performance improved even further upon his return in late July, as he posted a 3.67 ERA and a near-identical 3.75 FIP across his final 12 starts.

Clevinger’s preference for a one-year contract positions him strategically in the current market. Teams seeking a short-term boost to their rotation may find him appealing, especially considering his flashes of prior dominance and his solid showing with the White Sox last season, despite dealing with an injury.

While Mike Clevinger’s mid-rotation performance with the Chicago White Sox last year was solid, his underlying statistics raise some questions. His average fastball velocity reached 94.6 mph in his second year back from Tommy John surgery, but his strikeout rate dipped to just 20%, and his groundball rate hit a career-low 30.9%. These numbers are a significant departure from his peak years with the Cleveland Indians, where he struck out 28.3% of batters and induced groundballs at a 40.3% rate.

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Despite these diminished metrics, Clevinger remained an attractive option for teams seeking rotation depth during the offseason. This is particularly surprising given the recent wave of pitching injuries plaguing Major League Baseball. Teams like the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, New York Yankees, and San Francisco Giants have all been hit hard by unexpected injuries to their starting pitchers this spring.

Clevinger, with his willingness to sign a one-year deal, presents a cost-effective solution for these clubs scrambling to solidify their rotations before Opening Day. While he may not match the elite production of aces like Gerrit Cole or Justin Verlander, his ability to provide stability in the middle or back end of a rotation could be invaluable to teams facing injury woes. Furthermore, his preference for a one-year contract offers flexibility, potentially making him especially appealing to teams like the Astros or Marlins, who have long-term rotation depth but are currently dealing with short-term injury issues.

In essence, Clevinger stands as a potential bargain for a team in need, offering a proven major league arm at a reasonable price point and with a contract term that aligns with certain teams’ specific needs.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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