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Padres remain relentless, acquire Mike Clevinger in nine-player deal with Indians

What more is there to say about San Diego’s willingness to go all-in?

Cincinnati Reds v Cleveland Indians Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

In yet another move before today’s 4 p.m. trade deadline, the Padres made their biggest trade to date.

In a nine-player trade with the Indians, the Padres acquired right-handed starter Mike Clevinger. Outfielder Greg Allen and a player to be named later are also heading to San Diego in the deal.

In return, the Indians are receiving a split collection of major league contributors and prospects. On the big league side, righty Cal Quantrill, outfielder Josh Naylor and catcher Austin Hedges head to Cleveland. On the prospect side, they’ve also brought in lefty Joey Cantillo, and infielders Gabriel Arias and Owen Miller.

Clevinger is obviously the headliner here, though it is far from a shock to see him moved. Along with teammate Zach Plesac, Clevinger violated COVID-19 health and safety protocols by leaving the team’s hotel on a weekend trip to Chicago. The team placed both pitchers on the restricted list on Aug. 11, and though Clevinger did return to make a start on Aug. 26, it was clear that the Indians were at least open to dealing him.

The 29-year-old has been one of the best starters in the league over the last couple of years, with his 8.7 WAR from 2018 to 2019 ranking 12th among starting pitchers. Last season was Clevinger’s best. In 126 innings, he pitched to a 2.71 ERA, with a 33.9 percent strikeout rate to just a 7.4 percent walk rate.

To start 2020, Clevinger’s performance has dipped a touch. The 3.18 ERA isn’t too much of a concern, but a 22.6 percent strikeout rate to a 11.8 percent walk rate are more significant indicators of the lack of the same dominance. Additionally, he’s allowed a ton of home runs to start the year, so his 5.60 FIP looks problematic. Of course, all of this has come in just 22 23 innings over four starts, a small sample, sure, but still uncharacteristic:

The stuff still appears to be there, though, which is almost certainly why San Diego felt comfortable making the deal. Clevinger’s fastball averages 94.6 mph, with about 10 percent more rise than average when adjusting for velocity. He pairs that with a slider, curveball and changeup, and a cutter that he added this year. Historically, Clevinger’s best pitch has been his slider, with +33.0 runs above-average produced over his career. Even in his down start to the season, the slider has been near-unhittable, with hitters producing a .130 batting average and .235 wOBA against it. They have whiffed on 41.5 percent of swings against the slider.

His fastball, on the other hand, has taken the brunt of the damage this season after being excellent in 2019. Though the sample is only 27 batted balls, hitters have put Clevinger’s fastball into the seats four times, and have posted a .294 batting average and .410 wOBA against it. The underlying numbers aren’t great either, with a 92.6 mph average exit velocity allowed and a .482 xwOBA. Hitters have feasted on the pitch to start this season, and Clevinger’s fastball success will be something to watch upon his incoming uniform change.

In addition to Clevinger, the Padres also brought on the 27-year-old Allen, a San Diego native and a San Diego State alum. Allen hasn’t really ever hit at the major league level, with his .239/.295/.344 career line leaving a lot to be desired in the offense department. His defense has been fine at times, but in his career sample, it’s been just about average, with 4 DRS and -1.3 UZR. He projects to slide onto the team’s current 28-man roster in a bench role.

On the other side of the deal, Cleveland brought on quite a few players themselves. As mentioned, three of their acquisitions are in the majors now, keeping with the Indians’ theme of always retooling through trades. The team is certainly in contention themselves, as they sit tied atop the AL Central with the White Sox at a 21-13 mark. While none of Hedges, Naylor or Quantrill are marquee-level returns, they all provide value in important areas.

Naylor might be the most interesting of the three major leaguers acquired in return, and he’s expected to slide in as the starting left fielder immediately. He has 317 plate appearances in the majors over two seasons, where he’s hit a touch below league-average, with a .253/.315/.405 line and a 90 wRC+. There certainly is the potential for much more power there, as FanGraphs graded him as a 70 in the raw power department and as a 60 in future game power. Unlike most power hitters, though, he hasn’t shown a a ton of swing and miss in his game, never striking out more than 20.6 percent of the time at any turn in the minors. The 23-year-old did strike out 22.9 percent of the time last season with the Padres, but only has four punch-outs in 38 plate appearances to start 2020.

Trading Hedges made sense for the Padres, considering they added two catchers yesterday and couldn’t carry four on their roster at one time (Francisco Mejia is nearing a return from the IL). The 28-year-old has been a defense-first option behind the plate. His -67.6 offensive runs above-average since his debut in 2015 is the sixth-worst mark of any player with at least 1,000 plate appearances in that span. His defense has always been fantastic, though; he was worth nearly 21 runs above-average from framing alone last year.

Quantrill is the final major league piece as part of Cleveland’s return. He’s mostly pitched out of the Padres’ bullpen this season, and given the Indians’ glut of starting pitchers, that’s where he’s likely headed even with his new team. Quantrill has four pitches, a sinker, slider, four-seamer and changeup, and his strikeout and walk numbers are decent, but in a sample of 120 13 innings to start his major league career, he’s looked pretty much like an average option overall.

Lastly, Cleveland acquired three prospects from San Diego’s deep system. Cantillo, ranked as the Padres’ 12th-best prospect prior to this year, is a 20-year-old lefty starter who currently projects as a fourth or fifth rotation option. Arias, ranked 16th on their list, is a 20-year-old shortstop who, despite looking fantastic in batting practice, struggles with his plate discipline (he had five times as many strikeouts as walks last year). He could develop into a star if that is cleaned up. Miller, ranked 25th on their list, is a 23-year-old infield prospect with not a ton of pop, but a decent hit tool. He is projected to be about a 40 or 45 future value player, per Eric Longenhagen. All told, it’s an interesting group of players, but without any tailor-made prospects, the Indians will need to put their development staff to work in bringing out the best of each of the three.

But the main story here is the Padres, of course. They’re continuing to add for their playoff push, and given the randomness of this season, who could blame them? While these moves probably don’t make them a better team than the Dodgers, the Padres could very easily be the National League champion given the randomness of a 60-game season and a three-game playoff series to open up October. A.J. Preller has stacked his roster with talent in the last few days, and this move gets him his best return yet.


Devan Fink is a sophomore at Dartmouth College and a Contributor at Beyond The Box Score. Previous work of his can be found at FanGraphs and his own personal blog, Cover Those Bases. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.