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Cleveland right-hander Mike Clevinger will return to the active roster in time to start Wednesday at home in the series finale against the AL Central-leading Twins. Team president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti made the announcement on Tuesday

Clevinger and fellow right-hander Zach Plesac were originally placed on the restricted list after the pair broke COVID-19 protocols by leaving the team hotel and going out following a game against the White Sox in Chicago. Following the incident, the team sent Plesac home. However, Clevinger’s role wasn’t discovered until after he’d flown back to Cleveland with the team, thus potentially exposing his teammates. The actions of the pitchers frustrated some teammates and eventually led to both being optioned to the alternative training site. 

Clevinger this season has pitched to a 3.24 ERA in three starts. When healthy, he’s been one of the AL’s top starters in recent seasons. Since the start of the 2017 season, Clevinger has a 2.97 ERA (152 ERA+) with 528 strikeouts in 464 1/3 innings. 

Given Cleveland’s impressive rotation depth, however, Clevinger may be expendable as the Aug. 31 trade deadline approaches. Indeed, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale recently reported that the team is willing to listen to trade offers involving Clevinger. The 29-year-old right-hander isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season. Given his excellence and multiple years of team control, he’d no doubt command a nice return for Cleveland.

As for what they’d be targeting, outfield help seems like an obvious answer. Cleveland is aiming to contend this year, but ownership has resisted investing in the roster at adequate levels. As a partial consequence, Cleveland right now ranks 13th in the AL in runs scored, and their outfielders have combined to “hit” .181/.280/.268. 

The strength of the team’s pitching is such that they’ll very likely make the expanded playoff field regardless of what they do at the deadline. The outfield situation, however, begs for improvement, and Clevinger’s value is such that he could fetch a true difference-maker. 

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