Is it smart for the Chicago White Sox to bring back starting pitcher Mike Clevinger?

He is back on a one-year deal

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox may not need a fifth starter for a while. If they go with one, it could be veteran starter Mike Clevinger.

The Sox are bringing back their most reliable starting pitcher from 2023.

Clevinger gambled in the offseason that he would make more than a $12 million mutual option he had with the Sox after he declined it. Instead, he will likely return to the Southside at a reduced rate.

The first four starting pitchers in the rotation all completed their first starts. Garrett Crochet was the Opening Day starter and was amazing. Michael Soroka and Erick Fedde were okay in their starts over the weekend. Chris Flexen lasted only 4.1 innings and gave up four runs to the Atlanta Braves.

Crochet is scheduled to start on Tuesday although there are chances of rain and snow tomorrow. There is also a chance of snow on Wednesday's finale. If both of those games get called, the Sox will not need a fifth starter until April 14th.

It might be hard to envision Clevinger getting himself ready by then, but he is a veteran pitcher who would assume has been working out while waiting to sign with a team.

If he is not ready, the Sox could tap rookie Nick Nastrini to cover a start and they still have Brad Keller in the organization.

Nastrini had a good spring training, is the Sox' third-best pitching prospect, and is ranked eighth in their system.

That is a big reason to question why the Sox are bringing in Clevinger now. Yes, they are getting him probably for less than $12 million, but he will be taking away starts from a younger, possibly more talented player in Nastrini. This is a rebuilding year, so it is better to see what Nastrini can do than trot out Clevinger every fifth day once he is ready.

At the same time, Clevinger was a reliable performer when he was not on the IL last season. He had a 3.77 ERA, 4.28 FIP, and finished with a 2.2 fWAR. He had 110 strikeouts and his average velocity on his fastball was just a tick above 94mph which was one mph better than his horrid 2022 season.

He can eat some innings while Nastrini gets a few more innings of experience at Triple-A. Plus, you will not start his service time clock in case he pans out. Maybe, the Sox can actually trade Clevinger before the deadline this season. Last year, the team did not move him and when he was waived, no one wanted to claim him.

Clevinger is a controversial player off the field, but there were no reported incidents of him causing trouble during last season. It is a move that makes some sense. It just would have been better to sign him before spring training ended.