The San Diego Padres, more a curiosity than a contender to begin August, will exit the month with a stunningly revamped roster equipped to win the World Series now – and for many years to come.
A feverish three-day run of acquisitions hit its apex Monday morning when the Padres acquired a legitimate No. 1 starter, Mike Clevinger, in a nine-player trade with the Cleveland Indians, the seventh and most significant player added to a club that’s won 10 of its last 13 games and is a playoff lock in this pandemic-shortened season.
The teams announced the trade Monday afternoon.
Certainly, the Padres are well-suited to compete in 2020’s 16-team playoff tournament, perhaps to even threaten the Los Angeles Dodgers, the prohibitive favorites to make the MLB finals this year.
But in acquiring Clevinger, the iconoclastic 29-year-old fireballer who fell out of favor in Cleveland after an ill-timed night out amid a global pandemic, the Padres now have a legitimate ace under club control through the 2022 season.
That’s when the Padres’ core of shortstop Fernando Tatis, $300 million third baseman Manny Machado and a cadre of young pitching talent was expected to coalesce.
Yet a 21-15 start – including a recent run where the club crushed grand slams in four consecutive games – changed the narrative significantly.
Why not now?
So in came reliever Trevor Rosenthal from Kansas City, first baseman/DH Mitch Moreland from Boston, catchers Jason Castro (Los Angeles Angels) and Austin Nola (Seattle) and relievers Dan Altavilla and the injured Austin Adams from the Mariners, too.
The coup de grace came just hours before Monday’s trade deadline: Clevinger, who averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings the past two seasons and has a high-octane three-pitch mix worthy of a No. 1 starter and possible playoff ace.
He was available in part because of a night out in Chicago he enjoyed with fellow starter Zach Plesac; both were caught returning to the Indians’ team hotel just days after MLB instituted tighter protocols to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
But the Indians went 11-6 between the time those two were banished to their alternate training site and Clevinger returned to the mound, vaulting from third to first place themselves. In acquiring Naylor, it helps balance a very pitching-centric organization that had produced the worst outfield production among contending teams this year.
At 21-13, the Indians committed the almost unprecedented move of dealing a frontline starter at the trade deadline while tied for first place, with the Chicago White Sox. With All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor a free agent after next season, a larger revamp could be ahead, though the Indians clearly can compete this year and next minus Clevinger.
San Diego also received speedy reserve outfielder Greg Allen and a player to be named in the deal. The Indians will receive Naylor, Quantrill, catcher Austin Hedges, minor league infielders Gabriel Arias and Owen Miller and minor league lefty Joey Cantillo.
But Naylor and Quantrill aren’t even among the Padres’ blue-chip prospects; Cantillo is the only player, at No. 9, ranked in anybody’s top 10..The future is that bright in San Diego.
The present is looking pretty good, too.