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White Sox To Re-Sign Mike Clevinger

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9:50 pm: Clevinger’s deal with the White Sox will pay him $3MM in 2024, with an additional $3MM available in incentives (per Robert Murray of FanSided).

4:55 pm:
 The White Sox and right-hander Mike Clevinger are in agreement on a deal, pending a physical, reports Robert Murray of FanSided. The full details of the pact for the ACES client are not yet known, though Jon Heyman of The New York Post relays that it’s a one-year deal.

Clevinger, 33, was one of many free agents to linger on the open market for a very long time, as the offseason turned out to be far slower than anyone had anticipated. He had signed with the White Sox last winter, a one-year deal with a $12MM guarantee. It was later reported that Clevinger was under investigation for domestic violence allegations, though that investigation concluded without the pitcher receiving any discipline.

He went on to have a decent season for the Sox, throwing 131 1/3 innings with a 3.77 earned run average. He went on the injured list twice, the first due to right wrist inflammation and the second due to right biceps inflammation, but still managed to take the ball 24 times.

Though the ERA was nice, there were other numbers that were less impressive. His 20% strikeout rate was below league average and well below the 28% rate Clevinger posted from 2017 to 2020. He underwent Tommy John surgery in November of 2020, missing the entire 2021 season, and hasn’t been quite the same since his return. His velo hasn’t quite come all the way back to pre-surgery levels and he only struck out 18.8% of batters faced in 2022.

In 2023, luck may have helped him keep his ERA low, as his .281 batting average on balls in play and 77.2% strand rate were both on the fortunate side. His 4.28 FIP and 4.81 SIERA suggest he may not have been as effective as the ERA make him look.

Perhaps it was those underlying metrics or maybe it was just a side effect of the generally weak offseason, but Clevinger didn’t find a deal to his liking during the winter and will now be signing after the 2024 campaign has already begun.

The Sox don’t need Clevinger to be an ace, as simply having him eat some innings should be useful to them. They traded away Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn last year as they kicked off a rebuild, then flipped Dylan Cease this winter and moved Michael Kopech into a relief role. Touki Toussaint was outrighted off the roster and Jesse Scholtens required Tommy John surgery. With José Ureña having signed with the Rangers, the Sox came into the 2024 season with every pitcher that made more than three starts for them in 2023 either gone, injured or in the bullpen, prior to Clevinger’s return.

The rotation currently consists of new arrivals. Reliever Garrett Crochet is going in the opposite direction of Kopech, while Michael Soroka was acquired in a trade and Erick Fedde and Chris Flexen were signed as free agents. The club also brought in Jared Shuster, Jake Eder and Jairo Iriarte via trades in the past year, but each has been optioned for work in Triple-A.

That leaves one spot open, which Clevinger will fill at some point. Since he missed all of Spring Training, he will presumably need a bit of tune-up time to get into game shape, even if he’s been building up a pitch count in some unofficial capacity.

Any of their current starters could find themselves available at the trade deadline, which could further open up the need for innings. Soroka and Flexen are both impending free agents while Fedde is controlled through 2025 and Crochet through 2026. With the club’s timeline for a return to contention unclear, there would be an argument for making any of those guys available.

If those players end up getting moved, some of the aforementioned younger pitchers could get an audition but the likelihood of needing someone to take the ball is high, with injuries sure to crop up throughout the year. If Clevinger can find a way to get his strikeouts back, he could pitch himself into a trade scenario as well.

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