The White Sox addressed a top area of need by signing free-agent right-hander Mike Clevinger, a source confirmed. The deal, which is for one guaranteed season, is pending a physical and hasn’t been announced. MLB Network reported the contract is worth at least $8 million.
Clevinger joins an all-right-handed starting unit that also includes Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito. Johnny Cueto, one of the Sox’ top starters in 2022, is a free agent.
Clevinger, who had a second Tommy John surgery after the 2020 season, posted a 4.33 ERA in 114⅓ innings last season after missing all of 2021. In his final regular-season start, he beat the Sox and Cease with six innings of one-run, three-hit ball Oct. 1. But he lasted a combined 2‰ innings in two playoff starts, allowing seven earned runs. A sprained right knee suffered in spring training sidelined Clevinger for the first month of last season, and he also was sidelined by a strained right triceps in May.
Clevinger, who will turn 32 on Dec. 21, posted a combined 2.96 ERA in 2017-20 with Cleveland and the Padres. He was among the top starters in the majors during that time, with a 28.3% strikeout rate, 40.2% ground-ball rate and 9.1% walk rate.
The Padres acquired Clevinger from Cleveland in a nine-player trade Aug. 31, 2020. In his last regular-season start that season, he was diagnosed with a posterior impingement in his right elbow. He pitched only one inning that postseason before having Tommy John surgery in November.
Clevinger’s average fastball velocity dropped from 95 mph to 93.5 mph after surgery, and his strikeout rate fell, too. The Sox are hoping the velocity returns as the surgery further fades into the past.
In 2020, Cleveland put Clevinger and teammate Zach Plesac on the restricted list after they broke team rules and Major League Baseball protocols by leaving their hotel in Chicago and risking exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
‘‘This one kind of hurts,’’ Cleveland manager Terry Francona said at the time.
Clevinger apologized for putting teammates, staff, opponents and umpires at risk by going out after a victory against the Sox.
‘‘There is no excuse for my actions, and I can only take responsibility and learn from my mistakes,’’ Clevinger said then. ‘‘Moving forward, I promise my actions will reflect a full understanding of the protocols set in place while I continue my passion for competing for the incredible fans and the city that I adore.’’
The signing is the Sox’ first move of the offseason. They also need to address their outfield and second base as they look to improve on their 81-81 finish in 2022.
The Sox are familiar with Clevinger from his time in the AL Central. He faced them 11 times, including nine starts, posting a 2.15 ERA. He also has fared well against the rest of the division, going 9-0 with a 1.98 ERA against the Royals, 8-2 with a 1.74 ERA against the Tigers and 4-4 with a 3.13 ERA against the Twins.
Clevinger’s nickname is ‘‘Sunshine.’’ It was given to him by teammates for his resemblance to Ronnie ‘‘Sunshine’’ Bass from ‘‘Remember the Titans.’’