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White Sox, pitcher Mike Clevinger make deal official

by Joe Binder

The White Sox have made their first signing of the offseason official.

Per a release, free agent right-handed pitcher Mike Clevinger and the club have agreed to terms on a one-year, $12-million contract. Under terms of the agreement, Clevinger will receive $8 million in 2023, with a mutual $12-million option for 2024 that includes a $4-million buyout.

Clevinger, who turns 32 later this month, was one of several names mentioned as part of our list of 10 starting pitchers that the White Sox should consider this offseason. He was traded to the San Diego Padres back in 2020 in a move that sent pitcher Cal Quantrill, catcher Austin Hedges, shortstop Gabriel Arias, utility infielder Owen Miller, outfielder Josh Naylor, and left-handed pitcher Joey Cantillo to Cleveland.

After serving as one of the three aces of the Cleveland Guardians staff a few years back, it’s been far from smooth sailing for Clevinger since then. After missing all of 2021 and part of 2020 due to Tommy John Surgery, Clevinger came back this season with a few miles per hour off his fastball and some pretty poor results as a whole. He failed to get the same swing-and-miss stuff on any of his stuff, and after posting a career-high strikeout rate of 33.9% in 2019, his 18.8% strikeout rate in 2022 leaves a lot to be desired.

The 31-year-old finished this year’s campaign with a 7-7 record, a 4.33 ERA (55 ER/114.1 IP), .233 (102-437) opponents average, and 91 strikeouts over 23 appearances (22 starts). He missed the first month of the season with a sprained right knee suffered during spring training. From May 17 through August 1, Clevinger posted a 3-3 record with a 2.81 ERA (16 ER/51.1 IP) and 49 strikeouts in 10 games (nine starts) – a positive step in the right direction.

Taking a bet on Clevinger is absolutely buying low at this point, and there is no guarantee he really returns to form. However, given Ethan Katz’s track record, as well as Clevinger’s own track record of …

  • A 2018 season with 200 IP
  • A 2.96 ERA in 489.1 innings from 2017-2020 before his injury
  • A 28% strikeout rate and a 9.0% walk rate from 2017-2020 before his injury

… the White Sox feel comfortable enough to give Clevinger a sort of “prove it” deal.

With this move, the White Sox appear to have solidified their 2023 rotation which already features Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, and Michael Kopech. Clevinger will look to fill the shoes of Johnny Cueto, who proved to be one of the bright spots in 2022 after signing a minor league deal. By taking over that fifth starter role, the pressure on Clevinger will be relatively low as he looks to re-establish himself and stabilize the back end.

A native of Jacksonville, Clevinger is expected to wear jersey number 52 with the Sox. Meanwhile, the team’s 40-man roster increases to 36 following the signing.

Be sure to follow along on social media @SoxOn35th for any additional coverage.

Featured Photo: © Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

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