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The View From Pluto: The Mike Clevinger Trade is About Balancing the Present With the Future

a photo of Mike Clevinger
Indians Starter Mike Clevinger was traded to the San Diego Padres in a move to balance winning now and sustaining success.

The Cleveland Indians are in the hunt for the playoffs during this pandemic-shortened season.

The team made waves earlier this week when it shipped ace pitcher Mike Clevinger to the San Diego Padres in return for a handful of younger players and promising prospects. 

WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto said the trade may not be splashy, but it makes sense for the Indians. 

Trade impact on 2020

The Indians received six players from the Padres in return for Clevinger, outfielder Greg Allen, and a player to be named later. While those six each carry upside and potential, fans are asking how this trade could improve the team for a playoff push this year?

"The answer is probably it doesn’t make them a whole lot better in 2020," Pluto said.

He said it would be foolish for a smaller-market team like Cleveland to go "all in" on acquiring salary at a time when clubs want to shed payroll because of the lack of money coming in with ticket sales.

"You have two eyes: One eye is on the present, and the other eye is on the future. The eye you're really looking through the most is the future eye," he said.

Odds to make the playoffs

While Clevinger is a talented pitcher, Pluto thinks losing him likely won't put a dent in the Indians' postseason aspirations.

"When you have 30 teams and 16 are expected to make the playoffs, [the Indians] going to make the postseason. This will be the fifth time they've made the postseason in the last eight years," Pluto said.

This would also be the eighth straight year with a winning record, barring a collapse.

"[The Indians] have been a good team now for almost a decade. Part of the reason they've been able to do that is when they trade a player, such as Trevor Bauer a year ago or some of their other bigger name players in the past, and got prospects," Pluto said. "They've been able to keep fueling their team with these younger, cheaper players coming in and that’s been able to help them sustain this."

You have two eyes: One eye is on the present, and the other eye is on the future. The eye you are really looking through the most is the future eye.

The return package

Among the players who could make an impact immediately among the six players Cleveland got in the deal, Pluto cited outfielder Josh Naylor as someone who will play right away. Naylor is the older brother of Bo Naylor, one of the Indians' top prospects.

Pluto said while he could read off all six names coming to Cleveland, even he had to look up a few of the players to get more details.

"That's often the case when the Indians make trades. They get these guys who [make you] go 'who are they?' When a number of years ago they traded for an obscure, Double-A pitcher, they got him from the San Diego Padres,” Pluto said.

That pitcher was Corey Kluber, who went on to become a two-time Cy Young award winner in a Cleveland uniform and one of the most dominant starters in all of baseball before injuries hit, and he was sent to the Texas Rangers in December.

Talent identifiers

While some could knock finding Kluber as pure luck, in 2008 the Indians trade Cy Young winner CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers. While the headliner in the deal was Matt LaPorta, who didn’t make much of an impact in the big leagues, they received a player to be named later.

That player ended up becoming Michael Brantley, a multiple time all-star and a longtime Cleveland outfield stalwart.

"The names mean nothing right now. But out of that group there’s probably one or two pretty good big league players, and those are the guys that help the Indians sustain what they’ve been able to do over the years," Pluto said.

"It’s not a lot of fun if you like names and play fantasy ball, but it’s the type of game the Indians have been very good at playing."

Sean Fitzgerald is a senior journalism major at Kent State University. Sean has been with Black Squirrel Radio, Kent State's student-run radio station since the spring of 2018 as a sports show host and co-host, a web article contributor and now serves as the sports department director for the station. Sean hopes to pursue a career in sports journalism once he finishes school.
Mark Arehart joined the award-winning WKSU news team as its arts/culture reporter in 2017. Before coming to Northeast Ohio, Arehart hosted Morning Edition and covered the arts scene for Delaware Public Media. He previously worked for KNKX in Seattle, Kansas Public Radio, and KYUK in Bethel, Alaska.