Mike Clevinger Traded to Padres from Indians for Josh Naylor, More

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2020

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger delivers in the first inning in a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The Cleveland Indians are in the middle of the playoff race in the American League Central, but they still elected to trade one of their best starting pitchers.  

Cleveland traded Mike Clevinger to the San Diego Padres on Monday ahead of the 4 p.m. ET deadline, per longtime MLB writer Robert Murray. 

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic confirmed the news, reporting Cleveland traded Clevinger, outfielder Greg Allen and a player to be named later in exchange for outfielder Josh Naylor, pitcher Cal Quantrill, shortstop Gabriel Arias, pitcher Joey Cantillo, catcher Austin Hedges and shortstop Owen Miller.

"Super excited," Clevinger told Bob Nightengale of USA Today. "Most exciting team in baseball. It's definitely kind of the place to be.''

Nightengale had reported Sunday the Indians and Chicago White Sox were "actively involved in discussions on a deal." Other teams were interested in Clevinger, per Nightengale, but the White Sox stood out since they play in the same division as Cleveland.

The report highlighted Cleveland's need for more offense in the outfield, which Rosenthal also noted when confirming the talks between the team and Chicago.

Still, moving Clevinger in the middle of a playoff race is notable considering he has been a consistent presence in the team's rotation of late. He posted a 3.11 ERA in 2017, a 3.02 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 2018 and a 2.71 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 169 strikeouts in 126 innings last year.

In four starts this year, the right-hander has a 3.18 ERA.

This is not purely a rental for San Diego as Clevinger is under contract through the 2022 season. That surely allowed the Indians to ask for more in return, both in this offer and any others they entertained.

Clevinger was also available after he was reinstated following a stint on the restricted list when he and teammate Zach Plesac violated health and safety protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 29-year-old will now look to lead San Diego (21-15) to the postseason. The Florida native will join Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet and Zach Davies in the Padres rotation as they attempt to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

They have a golden opportunity to do just that with a young and talented team, especially given the expanded postseason, so it comes as no surprise they were aggressive at the deadline with this move.

The Padres have been the busiest team in baseball ahead of the deadline, already adding slugger Mitch Moreland, closer Trevor Rosenthal and catchers Jason Castro and Austin Nola in multiple deals across several days.

After going 13 years without a playoff berth, San Diego is ready to make this season count.

Cleveland is giving up a key player in the rotation but adds an impressive haul in return that includes immediate contributors in Quantrill and Naylor.

Naylor has hit .278 in limited playing time for San Diego this season. He has plenty of upside and can be an immediate boost in the Indians outfield that has provided limited production in 2020. Quantrill should help strengthen the bullpen after producing a 2.60 ERA in 17.1 innings this year.

Hedges could also provide some depth at catcher, although he is mostly known for his defensive contributions.

Additionally, the Indians poach from one of the top farm systems in baseball by adding three top prospects ranked in San Diego's top 11 by MLB.com. Arias (No. 7), Cantillo (No. 9) and Miller (No. 11) could all become key parts of Cleveland's future while extending the team's window for contention.