A.L. best Guardians keep reaping dividends from 2020 Clevinger trade |Jeff Schudel

Apr. 21—The decision by Chris Antonetti to send starting pitcher Mike Clevinger to the San Diego Padres on Aug. 31, 2020, is the trade that keeps on taking for the Guardians.

The Indians (at the time) acquired outfielder Josh Naylor, stating pitcher Cal Quantrill and catcher Austin Hedges from the Padres' Major League roster plus three minor league prospects — shortstop Gabriel Arias, left-handed starting pitcher Joey Cantillo and shortstop Owen Miller.

The Indians also sent outfielder Greg Allen and minor league starting pitcher Matt Waldron to San Diego in the deal. Waldron, the only one of the three still with the Padres, is 0-2 in four starts this season.

Manager Stephen Vogt was all smiles Sunday after the #Guardians beat the A's, 6-2, to sweep the series and improve to 16-6.

— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) April 21, 2024

Arias started at third base for the Guardians on April 21. He roped a line drive single to right field in the bottom of the fourth inning to drive in Will Brennan for a 3-1 lead. He also fanned with Bo Naylor on second in the bottom of the seventh for the first out of the inning while the Guardians were clinging to a 3-2 lead.

Not to worry. Brayan Rocchio was hit by a pitch, Steven Kwan popped out and then Andres Gimenez was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Josh Naylor, the Guardians' best run producer.

Naylor came through again. With the count 0-2, the barrel-chested first baseman smashed a double into the right-field corner to clear the bases for a 6-2 lead. It turned out to be the final score.

The Guardians are 16-6 — the best record in the American League. Their plus-52 run differential is the best in the Majors. Naylor's 20 RBI are tied for third-most in the American League.

"A lot of coaches talk about two-strike approaches," Naylor said on April 20. "I'm a believer in always taking your 'A' swing, whether you miss it or hit it. If it goes well, it does. If it doesn't, it doesn't."

Josh Naylor was nothing special when he played with the Padres. He hit .249 with eight home runs and 32 RBI in 2019. He was batting .247 with one home run and six RBI in 94 at-bats when he was shipped to Cleveland in the Clevinger trade. Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff usually do an excellent job projecting how young players will produce in years to come.

"I think we're seeing Josh continue to develop into one of the best hitters in the American League," Antonetti said April 21 in a pregame news conference. "And he has infectious energy. I mean, he plays the game with passion the vast majority of the time that's energetic and uplifting and in the right direction."

Clevinger, now pitching for the White Sox, was 9-8 in two seasons with the Padres.

Quantrill, now with the Rockies, was 27-15 in the four seasons he pitched in Cleveland.

Hedges is back in his second stint with the Guardians. He was signed as a free agent in December, not because of the way he hits, but because of his experience handling a pitching staff, his skill as a defensive catcher and because of the leadership he adds to the clubhouse. The Guardians' front office would not have known that about him had he not been here from 2000-2022.

Cantillo's time with the Guardians is coming. He might be on the Major League roster now, but a hamstring injury suffered in spring training derailed his development.

There was no minor league baseball in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cantillo was only 20 years old when the Indians acquired him. He pitched at single-A Fort Wayne in 2019.

The Clevinger trade will be even more lopsided in the Guardians' favor if Cantillo produces for them.