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Pestano for Clevinger: Indians go for upside

Pestano for Clevinger: Indians go for upside
Michael Clevinger (Photo:
August 7, 2014
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Today the Indians completed one of the first waiver deals of the baseball season. They traded right-handed reliever Vinnie Pestano to the Angels for right-handed pitching prospect Michael Clevinger.

Pestano has had one of the more interesting trips to and through the majors of any Indians player. He was a 20th round selection in 2006 and was never a big name prospect. The Indians selected Pestano knowing he would need Tommy John surgery. The risk they took was rewarded by the incredible hard work put in by Pestano who made the majors four years later.

The Indians tinkered with his approach and after a big year in 2010 he got the call to the majors. Once he got there he was nothing short of dominant. Pestano looked like not just a future closer but one of the best pen arms in the game. In 2011 and 2012 he was used often racking up 137 appearances, though towards the end of the 2012 season there were signs of struggle and fatigue. Yet he still had posted a WAR of 4.5 in two seasons, very good for a relief pitcher and had the 4th highest WAR of any pick from the Shapiro era at that point.

Last year Pestano was selected to represent USA at the World Baseball Classic, and then joined the Indians and very quickly in 2013 things came undone. It wasn’t just an issue with fatigue, his fastball had lost velocity and he was unable to find any success or consistency. In 2013 and 2014, Pestano posted negative WARs for the Indians and was unable to stick with the major league team.

I had stated early in the year I thought he would be a trade candidate for a team thinking they could fix him and end up with the special arm he showed a few years ago. Teams are always looking for help in the pen, and Pestano made sense as a buy low candidate for the Angels. He will join fellow former Indian Joe Smith in the Angels pen. This trade also saves the Indians a few hundred thousand and opens up a spot on the 40-man roster. I think if Pestano had not been traded he would have been non-tendered to avoid arbitration or designated for assignment in September to clear a spot on the roster anyway, so any return is a good thing at this point for the Indians.

In return the Indians get Michael Clevinger who was a 4th round pick for the Angels in 2011. He was signed to a deal that year which was $250K over slot which speaks to how well the Angels liked him. He was taken out of Seminole State Community College. If that college rings a bell, in 2011 in the 15th round the Indians drafted Todd Hankins from the same school. They will now be teammates at High-A Carolina.

Clevinger was listed as the 10th best prospect in the Angels system at the midway point by A quick point on this is the Angels had the worst minors in baseball at the start of the year and in spite of the draft it might be weaker now after trades. Their top three prospects were all from this year’s draft. As a matter of fact I bet the Indians three first rounders would have cracked the Angels top five right now.

Clevinger is still an interesting arm and a solid addition for the Indians. He is a 6’4” right-handed pitcher. He only pitched in three games in 2013 thanks to Tommy John surgery in 2012. Prior to surgery he had been the number 4 prospect in the system according to Baseball America. As a matter of fact, he had only pitched in 14 games over the previous three years. This year he has pitched in 18 games over two levels and pitched okay. He was a force in low-A, but has struggled a bit in high-A. His walk rate is high, but the fact is it can take time for control to come back post-surgery.

Clevinger shows four pitches. His best secondary offering is his slider but he has shown a change and a curve as well. His fastball in college was clocked as high as 97 MPH. He has the mix to be a very interesting pitcher.

The issue with Clevinger is that he is incredibly raw. He was a two way player in college who didn’t focus on pitching until he was with the Angels. Then he got hurt and missed parts of two years of development. He is in high-A, when by now you would expect him to be knocking on the door for the majors. Still, thanks to his size, velocity, and pitch mix, he is really a lottery ticket type of talent with major upside. He might need to be added to the 40 man this offseason as he could be a Rule 5 target.

I like this deal as the Indians need arms. Clevinger adds a high upside arm that the Indians minors lack. He needs to work on his command, but I think Clevinger has a chance to be one of the Indians top 20 prospects this year and a name to watch going forward.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at

User Comments

August 8, 2014 - 8:45 PM EDT
Some vid:
August 8, 2014 - 4:36 PM EDT
Correction to the article; Clevinger's signing bonus was NOT $250k "over" slot. It was ony $250k which is basically about what slot value is.
August 8, 2014 - 1:40 PM EDT
With just 18 appearances in two levels of A ball, it sounds like this guy is a long way from Akron, unfortunately. But if he straightens his control issues out, he could rise fast.
August 8, 2014 - 12:53 PM EDT
The kid's in A+ ball because he had TJ surgery. Kluber was A+ ball for 2/3 of his 23 yr. old season, without having had any health issues. He didn't make the ML team full time until he was 27. He's not a FA candidate, minus the Tribe extending him, until he's 33. That's a perfectly acceptable timetable. That's controlling his prime. If Clevinger takes 4 years to make the majors, he's right on Kluber's timetable.
August 8, 2014 - 10:21 AM EDT
Wish Vinnie P. success. He was a key relief pitcher in the past but? Clevinger seems like a good pick up and only 23.
I set back and see Swish playing left field. What a joke with Michael and Chris on the pines. I think Swish is on the down side of his career and was a very good player but now. We have to get serious and let the .207 players set up bench as subs. I like Josh but he has lost eight games and ERA very high and now he is in the bull pen. Why wasn't he sent to minors to work on things and not involved in our push for playoffs. Another Terry's family moves. Please, please Terry quit worrying about family and more about winning. Please.
August 8, 2014 - 9:19 AM EDT
I agree with Ryan and Jake. I personally wish VP the best and hope he can regain his old form, but this was a good deal from the current Indians prospective. We are going to have a 40-man crunch this offseason and I doubt he would have been tendered a contract as a 2nd year arbitration player. We also have a lot of relievers in Columbus and Akron who are Major League or near ML ready. Better to get a lotto ticket back for him than nothing at the end of the season.
August 8, 2014 - 9:16 AM EDT
This pitcher is 23 and in Single A. Not an exciting prospect
August 8, 2014 - 3:46 AM EDT
Wow, it is amazing that people are complaining about the trades this season because we "sold low". It wasn't like the Indians could sit and wait for Masterson and ACab to increase their value due to their pending free agency. Pestano was arbitration eligible and had become an afterthought in the reliever pecking order so selling now makes the most sense for the team. Trying to trade Masterson before the season started would have been seen as giving up on the season one year after making the playoffs.
August 8, 2014 - 3:17 AM EDT
Agree with Walter, this is quite similar to the Kluber get. Looks like a big. strong guy who misses bats. Lets straighten him out. Anyone seen any vids?
Jake D.
August 8, 2014 - 12:47 AM EDT
Not every one of these trades is going to work out, but based on the Indians recent track record of success with these types of under the radar deals, as Walter pointed out, I won't write this one off right away. The biggest success story from one of these trades is obviously Yan Gomes. And one that may be in the making right now here in Akron is Duke von Schamann, who we traded Colt Hynes for this spring.

Best of luck to Vinnie with the Halos and say hi to Joe Smith for us, but let's watch and see what happens with Clevinger.
August 8, 2014 - 12:05 AM EDT
A wise investing adage is to sell a little to soon rather than a little too late.
August 7, 2014 - 11:51 PM EDT
I think Antonetti has become gun shy to do those type of trade because he got burned by the Jimenez trade. Before that the Lee trade is the big black lingering cloud over this organization. Got to give them credit on trades that are under the radar. They have had the best success in these types of trades.
August 7, 2014 - 11:43 PM EDT
Indians missed a chance to trade each of Pestano, Masterson and Cabrera a year or so ago when value was much higher. Obviously, all three to varying degrees were important cogs to the team.....but Billy Beane has shown in Oakland that he is a master of trading guys away at max value and getting a pretty good haul in return.
Sell High
August 7, 2014 - 11:43 PM EDT
Can we learn our lesson on Vinnie Pestano and trade Cody Allen while he still has trade value? These relief pitchers are ticking time bombs.
Just Bein Real
August 7, 2014 - 11:39 PM EDT
I'm not going to hate on Antonetti for this, but Justin Masterson, Asdrubal Cabrera and Vinnie Pestano were all once very valuable players. The Indians sold low on all of them and got a few mediocre minor league prospects in return that all have clear holes in their games. It's really unfortunate. The Indians have a knack for getting identifying undervalued minor league prospects and turning them into very good MLB players, but its hard to get excited about this team right now, even for next year. Swisher and Bourn suck and are eating up a lot of money and there are big holes in the rotation. I can only hope Bourn ends the season very well and we can rid ourselves of that contract.
August 7, 2014 - 10:35 PM EDT
I believe that is what we thought of Kluber back in 2010. Clevinger is only 23. Let's see what happens in couple years.
MT88 in WI
August 7, 2014 - 10:04 PM EDT
Like the deal. Even if it only adds another arm to the pile for the Tribe. We never know, having another piece might enable the Tribe to make a bigger splash deal during the offseason to help the major league club....
August 7, 2014 - 9:46 PM EDT
Well.. this is what to expect when the Indians are looking at a guy like Vinnie P, knowing that his fastball isn't quite fast enough.. nor is his delivery quite deceptive enough and his command and control aren't quite up to major league standards.. They move a guy heading toward minor league free agency with some success on his resume for another guy.. who is kind of old for playing at A+ ball (college draftees that become injured after their rookie ball season, especially).. is working his way to becoming a minor league free agent.. and has some positive scouting reports regarding his pre-injury works.

Clevinger for Pestano is a new scenery deal for both guys.. nothing ventured nothing gained. Several relievers have passed Vinnie by. Several SP candidates have passed Clevinger by.. Both of these guys are teetering on being Minor League Roster Fodder or, have a chance to fill in for an injured arm somewhere along the way.. Major league success and stardom.. well. that ship has sailed for both.. and a good thing. it was the Titanic...

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