Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger went from being a linchpin in their rotation to banned from the team for breaking COVID-19 protocols. With the MLB trade deadline just a week away, the star pitcher could now be on the trade block.

Clevinger,¬†along with teammate Zach Plesac, was sent down to the alternate site by Cleveland on Aug. 14 for violating MLB’s strict guidelines for player safety. The move came after their teammates demanded discipline and it might have been the final straw for Clevinger’s time with the Indians.

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Indians SP Mike Clevinger available at MLB trade deadline

While the Indians are in the thick of the playoff race, with a legitimate shot at contending for an AL pennant, things could get interesting at the trade deadline. An organization that has always preferred operating with a low payroll, could be considering a big move before Aug. 31.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, rival MLB executives indicate the Indians are open to trading Clevinger before the trade deadline. The team would also likely receive calls on Plesac, but his team-friendly deal makes it far likelier he stays.

Clevinger was owed $4.1 million this season before MLB moved to prorated salaries and will receive a raise in each of his next two years under arbitration. Given Cleveland’s desire to limit spending, most notably by avoiding a long-term extension with star Francisco Lindor, moving Clevinger makes sense.

The Indians boast an impressive 17-11 record with the halfway point of the 2020 season near. They’ve done this despite missing two of their key rotational pieces for nearly two weeks.

Cleveland has been carried thus far by its pitching, which carries the second-lowest ERA (2.88) in the majors and leads MLB in strikeouts (298). The emergence of Triston McKenzie, who recorded 10 strikeouts and allowed just two hits in his MLB debut on Saturday.

McKenzie could slide into Clevinger’s rotation spot, with the team then shopping Clevinger. Numerous contenders are desperately in need of reliable starting pitching and the 29-year-old would be one of the top players available at the trade deadline.

Trade fits for Mike Clevinger

If the Indians commit to exploring trade options for Clevinger before the deadline, there will be no shortage of suitors. A talented hurler under team control on an affordable contract is an incredibly valuable asset, even if he made a reckless decision that endangered the safety of his teammates.

Clevinger could be an ideal target for teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. His salary would still easily fit into any of their payrolls and he could be counted on as a starter in the postseason.

New York is especially desperate for pitching after it placed James Paxton on the injured list with a flexor strain in his left arm. With Aaron Judge set to return to the lineup, talented outfielder Clint Frazier loses his spot in the lineup and could be more expendable.

It would mark a return to the organization that drafted Frazier with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. His development as a power hitter would provide a boost that Cleveland’s lineup desperately needs.

Trading Clevinger could be in Cleveland’s best interest both from a long-term perspective and with a look towards the future. This team came into the week with the second-worst batting average (.208) in the majors and the third-lowest OPS (.650) on the season.

If trading Clevinger can bring in an MLB-ready hitter who can help fill out this lineup, it would be a wise move for Cleveland to make.

Matt Johnson
NFL, MLB & college football writer for Sportsnaut. Graduated from San Diego State University with BA in Journalism, 2019. Grew up in Sacramento, now based in Indianapolis. Seen on MSN. Previously: eDraft, The Connection, With the First Pick