Last Wednesday, Mike Clevinger expressed just how much he wanted to win a World Series ring with the Indians. Five days later, he became a member of another organization.
Clevinger was informed Monday morning that he had been traded to the Padres in exchange for six players, a mix of big league contributors and prospects. The righty who was acquired by the Indians in a 2014 trade at 23 years old, went through Tommy John surgery as a Minor Leaguer and made his Major League debut during the Tribe’s magical '16 season now will not be able to finish the mission he wanted to accomplish.
Is that something he views as a disappointment?
"I mean, as a person, that's an easy thing to say, but when you're really looking at things, it's a business at the end of the day,” Clevinger said. “And in that business, if they think they're going to put together a better team with the players they’re getting and without you, then you just have to take that and roll with it and, if anything, use it as motivation."
As Clevinger boarded the team plane with the Indians on Sunday evening in St. Louis to depart for Kansas City, his teammates were constantly checking their phones to see whether he’d still be around to make his start for the Tribe on Tuesday.
“It was kind of hard not to watch [the rumors], because this is my livelihood,” Clevinger said. “[The rumors] flip-flopped back and forth, I can't even tell you how many times. I'm happy it's over.”
The now 29-year-old had a front-row seat to watch a Deadline deal play out last year, as good friend and former teammate Trevor Bauer was sent to the Reds on July 31. And after the team moved starter Corey Kluber over the offseason, Clevinger said he had a feeling he was next.
“Especially with the way the Indians do things, which is they're there to win every year, so anybody has a price,” Clevinger said. “Everybody has a price tag, and I think everybody in the organization knows that. There's no one that's really untouchable over there, so you have that in the back of your mind. There wasn't really a timer on it, but I knew it could be very plausible this season or this offseason.”
Clevinger may have expected to be traded at some point, but the lingering question is whether the incident in Chicago that resulted in him being optioned to the alternate training site at Lake County for 11 days encouraged the Indians to trade him at this juncture. But when both parties were asked about the situation, neither gave any indication that played a factor.
“Just looking at it from a business standpoint, I really don't think that,” Clevinger said. “I think this might have been inevitable at this point. If they're looking for a bat, I've got the two years of control. You got a lot more years of control with the guys younger than me in the rotation. You've got [Carlos Carrasco] already locked up. This was the position we've had a plethora of talent in for years. So I think this was inevitably the way, whether or not Chicago happened.”
“I think we moved past that [incident],” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “It took us a little while, about 10 days or so before Clev rejoined our team, but he did and was back on the Major League team and we were prepared to move forward with him. In the end, we felt that there was enough interest across the industry in Mike that we could make a good baseball trade, and we feel that’s what we did.”
By the time Clevinger boarded the team plane on Sunday, it seemed inevitable that he’d be traded by the 4 p.m. ET Deadline on Monday. And even though the trade is coming just weeks after he violated team protocols in Chicago on Aug. 8, causing some teammates to speak out against his actions, Clevinger said there were no bad feelings as he was saying his goodbyes in the Tribe’s clubhouse.
“As ugly as things were for a minute, that was such good group of guys, we pulled it together,” Clevinger said. “My relationships were already starting to be rebuilt. I don't think it was ever fully lost. I think it was just more [that they were] disappointed, like a friend who let you down. … I don't think I ruined my legacy with them or here, and I have no bad blood against them. I understand why they're disappointed. I understand the distraction I caused. So, no, no bad blood.”