Ken Rosenthal announced today that the Clevland Indians traded RHP Mike Clevinger, OF Greg Allen and a PTBNL for C Austin Hedges, OF Josh Naylor, RHP Cal Quantrill, SS Gabriel Arias, LHP Joey Cantillo, and SS Owen Miller.
Clevinger, the headliner of this trade, put together back to back seasons in 2018 and 2019 that solidified him as one of the best pitchers in the American League. In his 326 innings between the two seasons, Clevinger put up 8.7 fWAR with a 3.12 FIP, striking out 28.7% of those who faced him and only walking batters 7.9% of the time. He has had a rough time so far this season, with his FIP ballooning to a mark of 5.60 in the four starts he’s made and missing time due to violating COVID-19 protocols, but when he gets back to his former form he can be the jewel in a Padres staff that isn’t short on talented, young pitchers.
Also coming to the Padres is switch hitting outfielder Greg Allen. Allen has struggled at the plate in his major league career, slashing just .239/.295/.344 with a paltry eight home runs in 614 plate appearances, resulting in a meager wOBA and wRC+ of .278 and 68, respectively. He’s also not a strong defender. In his 1415 innings in the outfield, Allen has been worth just four DRS and -1.3 UZR, although statcast’s OAA has him being worth 7 outs above average since 2017. Allen’s biggest asset is his speed. So far this season he’s ranked in the 92nd percentile for sprint speed, according to statcast. He could work well coming off the bench as a pinch runner in extra innings.
In exchange for those two players as well as the PTBNL, the Padres have had to part with two major league regulars and four prospects
Austin Hedges might just be the best defensive catcher in baseball. Using baseball savant’s strike rate, Hedges mark of 53.8% in 2019 was the best in baseball and his pop time was a blistering 1.92 seconds the same year. It’s a good thing he’s a great defender, because he certainly can’t hit. In the 1339 career plate appearances he’s been given, he has slashed .199/.257/.359 with 49 home runs for a .262 wOBA and a 62 wRC+. In fact, since the lowering of the pitchers mound in 1968, he is one of just five players with 1000 plate appearances and a batting average below .200. Truly elite in more ways than one. It is unclear what the Indians will do with Hedges. They already have one of the best defensive catchers in Roberto Perez, and he’s an upgrade offensively compared to Hedges. Perhaps he will be used as a backup when Perez is unable to play or needs rest.
Josh Naylor, a lefty with big power, has yet to reach his potential in the majors. In his 317 career plate appearances he’s slashed .253/.315/.405 with nine home runs for a .307 wOBA and a 90 wRC+. His power is masked by the fact that he doesn’t have good plate discipline and is a big time ground ball hitter. Naylor did get his walk rate up to 11.1% in back to back seasons in AA and AAA, but in the majors he has had just a 8.2% walk rate. It’s not that Naylor can’t make contact, his contact rate of 80.1% in the majors is solid, it’s that when he makes contact the ball is put on the ground well over a majority of the time. Since the start of 2019, Naylor’s groundball rate of 52.7% is the 13th highest in the MLB for players with at least 300 plate appearances. Naylor is also quite poor with the glove. In his 493.2 innings playing the field he’s put up -5 DRS, -3.6 UZR, and -7 OAA. Fortunately, there is time for the former first round pick to turn it around. He’s only 23. If he makes the change to hitting the ball in the air more, he could be a player like Khris Davis. Massive power, low walk rate and for the love of god keep them at DH. The Indians needed a power bat, they just need to now help Naylor tap into his power.
I’ve already done a longform article on Cal Quantrill, so I’ll keep this paragraph about him short. He’s a righty who can both start and come out of the bullpen in relief. He unfortunately has only two good pitches, a sinker and slider. What you need to do with Quantrill is limit his exposure to lefties and make sure he doesn’t see the same hitter more than twice at the most. The Padres moved Quantrill from the rotation to the bullpen this season and that change has helped immensely. His FIP of 3.94 is very good, and while he doesn’t blow you away with strikeout numbers (24.3 K% with a 8.1 BB%) he limits hard contact and keeps the ball on the ground. His average exit velocity for this season is in the 84th percentile and he has an average launch angle of just 11.4 degrees.
Gabriel Arias, a young 20 year old, and very tricky to evaluate. Prior to 2019 his best wRC+ in a season was when he had a mark of 91 in rookie ball, and that came with a .406 BABIP. But in 2019, he exploded for a 120 wRC+, slashing .302/.339/.470 with 17 home runs in 511 plate appearances. Again, there are concerns as his walk rate was a paltry 4.9% and his BABIP was .378, worrying since he only grades out as a 55 level runner. But if the power is real (His ISO of .168 was easily a career best), it’s promising growth from a player who had previously been described as glove first.
Joey Cantillo, like Arias, is hard to project because of his age. He’s only 20, and if he continues to bulk up adding velo to his fastball and power to his curve, he could be a solid back end of the rotation guy at the major league level. But that’s a big if. What we do know right now is that Cantillo’s fastball sits 87-90 but performs above its velocity due to Cantillo’s mechanics, adding a little extra to it and he has a plus change up, the pitch that helped him strike out 34.7% of batters in A in 2019. He has solid enough control with it to be able to use it in any count, and it plays well off his lively fastball. Like I said, it’s difficult to project Cantillo, but he has a solid foundation that he can build on by improving either his fastball or curveball, or even both
Middle infielder Owen Miller is interesting. He doesn’t have jaw dropping power nor is he a bona fide gold glover, but he does everything well enough that despite not having a particular strength, he doesn’t have any sort of weakness. He put up a 121 wRC+ in his first season at AA by slashing .290/.355/.430 with 13 home runs in 560 plate appearances. His swing lends itself to high contact rates, but not to high home run totals. It will be interesting to see how Miller progresses. His defense is strong enough to stick at shortstop, which means that he has a future as a bench player even if his offense lags behind. He could also spend more time at second and third base and become a reliable utility man
The Padres are doing something unique. Instead of building up a young core through the farm system and then reinforcing them with a supporting cast of veterans, the Padres built up a young core through the farm and are now trading other farmhands who might be blocked at the major league level or far off from appearing in an MLB game, and trading them for young players who are still controllable for a few more years to continue to build up their core. Clevinger doesn’t become a free agent until 2023. He joins a young team that is going to be competitive for a long time, with him likely being a major piece to that team. The Indians are a pitching factory, trading away someone from a position of strength for multiple prospects that, while not certified future stars, are interesting enough players with a solid shot at contributing to the major league level and players who fill needs