Why the Nationals Need To Move Tyler Clippard

June 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

Despite their recent hot streak, the Nationals look to be surefire sellers between now and July 31st. In that vein there has been a lot of discussion of who might be available, and while the usual suspects (Jason Marquis, Ivan Rodriguez, Todd Coffey) are generally accepted, one name that hasn't gotten a lot of attention is RP Tyler Clippard.

Now it is understandable why Clippard gets overlooked, as he is under team control for 4 1/2 seasons after this and has been one of the best late inning relievers in the league. Despite that dealing Clippard, is in the Nationals best interest long term. For as good as Clippard is, at the end of the day he is just one piece of a strong bullpen. And while bullpen's are important, by in large they are overvalued by the industry, in particular by contenders (which makes some sense). Last year the Nats were able to pry top catching prospect Wilson Ramos from the Twins, for a year and a half of Matt Capps. Now Capps is a good reliever, but at the end of the day Clippard is cheaper, under control for longer and in fact a better reliever than Capps.

Now I realize the counter-argument among Nats fans is to keep him, for when they are contending. Which could be as soon as next year, depending on how Stephen Strasburg comes back, and how quickly top prospects Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon join the lineup, but a more realistic target is 2013. And while they could still have Clippard under control for a couple more years, getting that prospect return will likely have a far bigger impact than one reliever. Is there a risk? Of course there is, but there would be one with Clippard as well. Relievers are extremely volatile and the Nationals could end up not being able to move him due to performance or injury. Injury derailed the career of the Nats former bullpen ace Chad Cordero, a player that they decided to hold on to, instead of moving for prospects when he was at an All-star level. The Royals have had to also deal with their top bullpen arm losing his value, as they decided not to deal Joakim Soria last season, when his value was at it's highest. Now if they tried to move him, they'd be lucky to get 50 cents on the dollar.

Moving Clippard now makes sense for the Nationals because they can basically ask for a king's ransom. On talent alone Clippard would be among the top 5 relievers available at the deadline, but when you factor in cost, and years of control, he quickly moves to the top of the list. And given that level of value, I see the Nationals being able to land at least 3 quality young players in return, with 2 of them at a value level similar to Wilson Ramos.

While there could be any number of suitors, with the Yankees, Rangers, Cardinals all likely options, I think the best fit might be the Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa's bullpen has been just okay so far this season, and needs to get stronger for Tampa to have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Long term their outlook is even worse, as a number of their best options are free agents after this year or next. Given Tampa's limited payroll they aren't able to spend too much on the free agent market, and that includes resigning some of their own guys. While Tampa could stick to their strategy of converting a bunch of starting pitchers, it's an idea that could take time. Instead they could trade for someone who has already made the transition and is quite effective. Clippard would give the Rays exactly what they need. He is a bullpen workhorse, as evidenced by his 40+ innings pitched already. He's the type of guy who can give 5-6 outs, and is a strike thrower, and among the top 10 in K's per 9 innings. Clippard has also left a ridiculous 97.9% of runners stranded, which means even if he does make a mistake and give up a walk or a hit, he doesn't implode like some relievers. It might cost Tampa a couple quality prospects, but it could be well worth it for them.

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12 responses to Why the Nationals Need To Move Tyler Clippard

  1. I've heard some chatter on the radio this week about Clippard going back to the Bronx…

    • @Parks

      Yeah Yankees make a lot of sense as well, but the Rays need bullpen help and they need CHEAP bullpen help. I would think they'd be the heaviest pursuer, but of course that doesn't mean the Yanks, Cards, Rangers or anyone else won't swoop in there.

  2. I don't think I'm in favor of this but your argument does make some sense. But do the Rays have the type of top prospects that they would be willing to part with? And do the Yankees have more to dangle out there than the Rays? I guess if a couple of teams get into a battle over Clippard then we might get an offer that we can't refuse. If so, then I would be OK with pulling the trigger on it.

    • @ Willypops

      The Rays are a good team to deal with because not only do they have one of the deepest and strongest farm systems, but they are well stocked in pitching. The Nationals obviously have their two young studs, and picked up a couple more high impact arms (Meyers and Purke) in the draft, but beyond that they don't have a lot of high upside arms in their system. Now the Rays won't be able to offer the Nationals a centerfielder, unless we take B.J. Upton back as part of the deal (which is somewhat possible), as Desmond Jennings is probably untouchable. They also don't have any 1B prospects, but I think the Nationals can survive if the deal is centered around high upside pitching prospects.

      Tampa is also in a position where they almost have to trade some of these guys. Since they have stocked so many young prospects over the years, their 40 man roster space is getting pretty crowded. The Rays would be wise to trade a couple of these guys who will need to be on the 40 man next season for impact now in Clippard. I could also see a deal being expanded to include Laynce Nix, since the Rays could use a decent cheap bat for the rest of the season.

  3. Clippard for Desmond Jennings sounds fair for me…

    All kidding aside, it seems like the Nats inquire frequently on BJ Upton, I wouldn't put it past Rizzo bringing Upton back "home"…

    • If Rizzo gets the Rays drunk enough to land Jennings than he deserves the G.M. of decade award!

      I could see a B.J. Upton plus LHP's Jake McGee and Alex Torres for Clippard and Nix deal look good for both sides.

  4. Would giving up Upton for Clippard really be considered a positive transaction for the Rays??

    • @Willypops:

      Upton's numbers might look gaudy compared to Rick Ankiel (but then again who's don't). Tampa has an in house replacement in Desmond Jennings to Upton and Upton's numbers have been an issue for the Rays as they are very up and down. He's no longer that cheap as he is in his 2nd arb. year (meaning they only have one more year of team control). For a team like the Rays paying Upton $10 million+ over the next year and a half probably isn't the best use of their limited financial 'cap' room.

  5. Sorry man, but I just don't agree with this at all. Right now the Nationals only have three reliable relievers in their bullpen- Storen, Clippard, and Coffey.

    I'm all for trading Coffey, but trading Clippard who's been lights out as a setup man as long as he's been with the Nationals just doesn't seem smart. If say, Kimball works out and shows that he can be a dominant in a setup or closers role then I could entertain the thought of moving Clippard.

    But right now, I don't think it's a good move.

    • @LuWahooNatFan

      Here's the thing by the time Kimball works out or Balester, Rodriguez ect. Clippard might be injured (i.e. what happened with Cordero). Also there is chance that Clippard flames out or something else. The Nats have enough high upside arms, that I think it is well worth the risk.

  6. Steve – I agree with your initial premise that relievers are an overvalued commodity around trade time, because you are specifically targeting contenders that will have a higher marginal win value than other teams. So I am all in favor that they should see what the market is for Clip. I think that we may all be quite surprised.

    I don't think that I love the deal that you proposed at the end, though. BJ Upton – I dunno, I don't love him. Maybe swap Niemann for Mcgee?

    • @Wally-

      I would probably go the all-prospect route over Upton, and just stockpile arms, but Rizzo does seem to be in on Upton so that is why I mentioned it. I would personally go McGee over Niemann, just b/c of youth and control.