The expression “cut your losses” goes back almost two hundred years, and it’s always meant one thing: No matter how much has been invested in something, there’s a time when moving on is the best choice.
The White Sox are at that point.
They signed starting pitcher Mike Clevinger to a one-year, $8 million contract in early December, but revelations about his off-the-field behavior have made it time for the White Sox to cut their losses.
As reported in The Athletic on Tuesday, the league is investigating domestic violence allegations against Clevinger. His girlfriend posted a lengthy description of things she said he has done to her — along with pictures of bruises she says he inflicted — to her Instagram. Clevinger, responding through his lawyer, denied the claims Tuesday night.
The league has not issued any punishment at this point, and depending on how long an investigation of these claims takes, it could be some time before they do.
Trevor Bauer, a former teammate of Clevinger’s in Cleveland, was suspended by Major League Baseball for 194 games (brought down from 324 after an appeal) because of sexual assault allegations. The Dodgers released him on January 12 after the suspension ended. The White Sox should do the same with Clevinger. But they should do it now, rather than waiting to see what the league decides regarding punishment.
At this point, it does not appear that they will, however.
This wait and see approach is a bad one. Trevor Bauer was ultimately cleared of legal charges, but he still served a lengthy suspension and despite being available as a free agent for nearly two weeks, Bauer has drawn no interest from Major League teams.
There’s a scenario where the league does not find sufficient evidence against Clevinger to justify a suspension, but given the photo evidence already shared, that is a very remote one. The most likely scenario here is that Clevinger does get suspended, and probably for a long time. And more importantly, releasing Clevinger would be a statement of value. Not about positive PR or maintaining a good look, but one about demonstrably showing that actions like Clevinger’s are unwelcome, no matter how well he performs on the field.
Make no mistake, Clevinger would have been an important piece for the White Sox in 2023. They are going to be on a mission to prove the 81-81 flop in 2022 was the real fluke, and that they are not just a team that’s good on paper but one that fails to perform in reality. Clevinger likely would have helped them do that. Returning from Tommy John surgery last year, he posted a 7-7 record with a 4.33 ERA, but before that, he had a career ERA in the low 3.00s and averaged more than a strikeout per inning.
At one year and $8 million, the 32-year-old Clevinger would have been a low-risk, high reward option for the White Sox. They set up a $12 million vested option for 2024 with a $4 million buyout, so releasing him now won’t cost the White Sox much dollars-wise in the grand scheme of things. The more significant cost will be what he offers on the field.
But again, that’s not what matters here. Winning is important. Baseball success is important. The White Sox are on the verge of seeing their rebuild that was initiated in 2017 amount to two winless playoff appearances in 2020 and 2021. They badly need this year’s team to do well. But the bigger picture matters, too. It matters who you do that winning with, and Mike Clevinger should not be among that group.