One pitcher the Los Angeles Angels were linked to this offseason was Mike Clevinger. They were predicted by a decent amount of people to be the team to take a chance on him. This didn't end up coming to fruition as Clevinger signed a one-year deal worth a little more than $8 million dollars with the White Sox.
The Angels are fortunate Clevinger signed elsewhere, as he is nowhere near the pitcher he once was.
Just a few years ago, Clevinger was one of the young stars in the American League. He was part of a loaded Cleveland rotation ready to take the league by storm. In 2018 he had a 3.02 ERA in 32 starts with 200 innings pitched. He followed that up with a 2.71 ERA in 21 starts with a 12.1 K/9.
Clevinger was traded from Cleveland to the Padres in the middle of the 2020 season. He looked good in his four starts with San Diego that year but underwent Tommy John Surgery that offseason, knocking him out for the entire 2021 campaign and the first month of 2022.
He came back on May fourth in Cleveland ironically and allowed three earned runs in 4.2 innings pitched. Clevinger actually looked pretty decent in his first three months back, posting a 3.38 ERA in his first 12 appearances (11 starts) with 59 strikeouts in 60.1 innings pitched.
In his final 11 starts of the season, Clevinger struggled mightily. He had a 5.67 ERA in those starts with just 32 strikeouts in 54 innings pitched. The major red flag here was the drop in his velocity. Clevinger averaged 95.1 mph on his fastball in 2020. That was down to 93.6 mph this season. A 1.5 mph drop might not seem super significant, but when you're not throwing 100 mph, it is.
Clevinger took his struggles into the postseason where he allowed as many runs as he recorded outs (eight) albeit seven earned. This includes a start in Philadelphia where he allowed three runs without recording a single out.
Is it possible for Clevinger to bounce back to his old form another year removed from Tommy John? Absolutely. Did the Angels need to take the risk? Absolutely not. This version of Clevinger is not good enough. He allowed 1.6 HR/9 (career 1.1 HR/9). He struck out 7.2 batters per nine (career 9.5 K/9). He had a 4.33 ERA (career 3.39 ERA).
I hope Clevinger does revert back to his old form but the Angels didn't have to take this risk. They do still need a starter, but I'd like one who didn't look like a completely different version of what he once was.