MLB
August 31, 2020
BY Bryan Zarpentine

5 Biggest Takeaways from San Diego Padres Trading for Mike Clevinger

It turns out that the MLB trade deadline wasn't a snoozer after all.  

The San Diego Padres have almost single-handedly added a jolt of excitement to what could've easily been an afterthought. The Padres have gone crazy over the last couple of days, making several notable deals to improve their roster for the stretch run.

The team’s biggest move came Monday when they acquired Indians ace Mike Clevinger from Cleveland. San Diego also received speedy outfielder Greg Allen in the deal while the Tribe added slugger Josh Naylor, catcher Austin Hedges, pitcher Cal Quantrill and three of San Diego’s top 12 prospects: Gabriel Arias, Joey Cantillo and Owen Miller.

There is a lot to unpack from this trade, so let’s check out our five biggest takeaways from the blockbuster deal.

The Ace The Padres Need

The Friars' rotation, despite some issues in the back end, has been an important part of their success this season. Dinelson Lamet is having a breakout campaign, posting a 2.35 ERA over his first seven starts. Meanwhile, Zach Davies has been far better than expected, going 5-2 with a 2.61 ERA. Finally, last year’s ace Chris Paddack has had some ups and downs but he's been brilliant at times, owning a 4.43 ERA over eight starts. That trio has been enough to put the Padres in a position to make the playoffs and give them a fighting chance to win the World Series

The addition of Clevinger gives the Padres a true ace to lead the rotation. 

Clevinger has had an ERA no higher than 3.11 over the past three seasons and has a 3.18 ERA over his first four starts of 2020. While Paddack and Lamet are capable of pitching like frontline starters, Clevinger has proven himself to be one of the best pitchers in the game. He also has postseason experience that will be valuable if the Padres qualify.

Putting Clevinger at the top of the rotation gives the Padres more depth and changes their outlook heading into a postseason series, especially if Davies, Lamet and Paddack can continue to perform the way they have until now.

Is He The Final Piece of the Padres' Puzzle

The acquisition of Clevinger concluded what has been a busy few days for the Padres' front office. Before adding Clevinger on Monday, the Friars also acquired catchers Jason Castro and Aaron Nola, reliever Trevor Rosenthal and first baseman Mitch Moreland, among others. The cost of adding all of those players wasn’t cheap. But the Padres have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, allowing them to absorb so many win-now moves. 

San Diego’s roster now looks much different than it did a week ago. 

They have shored up their catching situation with a veteran in Castro and a bigger offensive threat in Nola. The Pads also added a veteran slugger who can serve as the team’s primary DH in Moreland, who is hitting .328 with an OPS of 1.177 this season. With Rosenthal, they secured a veteran reliever who can help close out games along with Drew Pomeranz, who's yet to allow a run in 10 innings this season.

Those moves helped improve the periphery of San Diego’s roster, but the addition of an ace like Clevinger is the kind of impact move that makes it clear the Padres have hopes of winning the National League pennant in 2020.

The Indians' Abundance of Arms

One important takeaway from this trade is that Cleveland is in no way conceding defeat in 2020 by trading away Clevinger. The Indians began Monday tied with the White Sox for first place in the AL Central. They appear to be a safe bet to reach the postseason, doing so primarily on the back of their starting rotation. 

Keep in mind that the Indians traded away former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and haven’t missed a beat. The team believes they can do the same thing without Clevinger.

While it’s unusual for a team in first place to trade away its ace, Cleveland can get away with it. For starters, they have the clear-cut Cy Young favorite in Shane Bieber, who is 6-0 with a 1.35 ERA through seven starts. Meanwhile, Aaron Civale and Carlos Carrasco have both been solid mid-rotation starters. Youngsters Zach Plesac and Triston McKenzie have both impressed when called upon. The Indians also know that Adam Plutko is better than he’s shown this season.

Even without Clevinger, Cleveland won’t have a problem putting together a competent five-man rotation for the rest of the season. More importantly, they have a certified ace in Bieber, making Clevinger expendable.

Outside Help

Not only was Clevinger expendable for the Indians, but they were also able to trade him for players who can help them both this year and in the future. Cleveland’s offensive woes have been well documented this season. Despite being tied for first place, the Indians have scored the third-fewest runs in the American League this year. They are also second to last in both home runs and OPS. Even star players Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have underperformed. 

If the Indians are going to solidify a playoff spot and be a threat in the postseason, they need more from their offense.

The additions of Hedges and Naylor aren’t game-changers, but both have a chance to help. Hedges is hitting just .158 this season, but he does have a considerable amount of power. That makes him a better option than Sandy Leon and Roberto Perez, who have provided little offense to the Indians this year. At the same time, Hedges is also a strong defensive player behind the plate.

As for Naylor, he also adds pop to the Cleveland lineup. He’s received little playing time in San Diego this year, but he hit at least 20 home runs in the minors every year from 2016 to 2019. Naylor also offers a little defensive flexibility. The left-hand hitting Naylor could platoon at first base with Carlos Santana, who has been dreadful against right-handed pitchers this year. Naylor could also play either corner outfield spot, where production from Domingo Santana and Jordan Luplow has been limited.

Potential World Series Preview?

Without question, the biggest takeaway from the trade between the Indians and Padres is that both teams made the deal to improve their teams for the rest of 2020. On the heels of other trades to improve their roster, the Padres made a significant improvement to an already solid starting rotation. Clevinger will likely be the best player traded at the deadline and is a difference-maker who could help the Padres become a legitimate threat to the Dodgers, who remain heavy favorites to win the National League pennant.

As for Cleveland, they once again traded from their abundance of pitching talent with the hope of improving their offense. Neither Hedges nor Naylor are likely to make a huge impact. But they will help add power and depth to a sluggish Cleveland lineup. Even without Clevinger in their rotation, the Indians have the arms to reach the playoffs and make a deep run once they get there.

Unlike most blockbuster deals made at the trade deadline, it’s not out of the question for the Padres and Indians to meet in the World Series, as both teams are better in the short-term after this trade.

Photo: Getty Images