Sox Reporter

Sox-Indians rumor has teams talking Clevinger, Kopech

Sox Reporter
USA Today

Well here's a wild trade rumor involving the White Sox.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale wrote Sunday, a day before the trade deadline, that the White Sox and division-rival Cleveland Indians are in discussions about a trade that would end with star pitcher Mike Clevinger joining the South Side starting staff.

Wait. It gets weirder.

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Nightengale also says a deal would likely involve the White Sox sending Michael Kopech to Cleveland, along with fourth outfielder Adam Engel.

So let that sink in.

The team the White Sox are chasing in the AL Central standings — Sunday's action kicked off with the White Sox a game behind the first-place Indians — would send them one of their best players in exchange for a fourth outfielder and a pitcher the White Sox are planning on partially building their long-term starting rotation around.

On the surface, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

First, while the Indians certainly have a ton of starting pitching and would be able to fill holes elsewhere on their roster by dealing some of it away, it seems like a pretty big roll of the dice to get rid of someone who's been one of the best pitchers in the league the last few years — Clevinger's got a 3.18 ERA in his four 2020 starts — in a season that could realistically end in a run at a World Series championship. Clevinger, unlike the Indians' star shortstop, Francisco Lindor, is also under team control for a few more years, through the 2022 season.

 

So not only would the Indians be weakening their own starting staff, but they'd be gifting a huge upgrade to a division rival they are actively competing against not only in this season but in the next two seasons, as well.

And in a year where the Indians are in position to compete for a championship, they'd be giving Clevinger up for nowhere near as much immediate big league impact, which they reportedly desire.

Engel has had a fine season but is not the caliber of impact player that Clevinger is and wouldn't exactly be a huge get for the big league squad. Kopech would be a terrific long-term add but has decided not to play this season for personal reasons, meaning the Indians would not be able to take advantage of his services until 2021.

On the White Sox side of things, obviously Clevinger would be a remarkable upgrade to a starting rotation that despite good numbers has some huge question marks behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel at the top

But Rick Hahn has talked numerous times, and as recently as earlier this month, about the team's desire to hold on to its long-term assets, to not mortgage its bright future and a seemingly lengthy contention window for a quick fix. Clevinger might not count as the kind of rental that Hahn said would be unlikely, but getting rid of Kopech, who's under team control through the 2025 season, would certainly figure to count as giving up a huge piece that makes the team's future so bright.

Of course, these are the kinds of tough decisions that come with winning baseball, something the White Sox haven't experienced since the start of their rebuilding project. And when championship contention becomes realistic, as it is right now with the White Sox 10-2 in their last dozen games, these are the kinds of tantalizing upgrades that might be difficult to pass up.

Still, the White Sox have long considered Kopech a key building block, ever since they acquired him in the trade that sent Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in 2016, though he pitched in just four major league games before requiring Tommy John surgery and will be two years without pitching in anything outside a Cactus League game by the time he's back in action come 2021.

But it was in that Cactus League game that Kopech hit triple digits on the radar gun numerous times. The White Sox know the kind of talent and the kind of top-of-the-rotation pitcher he could be. Do they really want to spend the next five seasons facing him as a division foe?

It would be wildly surprising if the White Sox and Indians completed a deal of such consequence while in the middle of a head-to-head race for the AL Central crown.

 

It's going to be an interesting 24 hours before Monday afternoon's trade deadline.

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